Kenai Landing open to some business

Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2004

Kenai Landing is open, although the complex is still under construction, Jon Faulkner told the Kenai Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

The resort, located on the Kenai River at the old Wards Cove cannery, opened Saturday. Facilities presently open at the complex include the restaurant and bar, called Sockeyes; the Warehouse Market; lodging; and limited commercial fish processing. However, most of these facilities are either still under construction or are not fully operational, Faulkner said.

Faulkner outlined the current status of facilities at Kenai Landing as follows:

Sockeyes is open for sit-down service, but a planned counter that will offer the restaurants full-menu for takeout is not yet open.

A handful of vendors have opened in the Warehouse Market which has space for more than two dozen retail shops although construction is only 50 percent complete.

Overnight accommodations are currently available in a renovated cannery building that used to be a women's dormitory, known as the Hen House. Renovations of lodging rooms in another building called the Machinist Bunk-house were expected to be complete Wednesday evening. Construction on a couple of smaller lodging houses is expected to be complete by the end of the week.

Copper River Seafoods is processing fish on site, but on a much smaller scale than the cannery previously operated. The fish being processed is for the fresh fish market, with no value-added products being produced at this time.

Faulkner asked the public to be patient with the ongoing construction, noting that the amount of renovation being undertaken is extensive and that he, his business partner Steve Agni and others associated with the project are in it for the long haul.

"(Kenai Landing) is the equivalent of two Fred Meyers in terms of square footage. It's huge," he said. "It's a long, long, longterm investment."

Faulkner said he is working with officials to try to get a Kenai Landing sign up on Kalifornsky Beach Road at Cannery Road, which is the turnoff to the resort. But for now, given the fact that renovations are still under way, he's in no hurry to advertise.

"You'll hear a few ads, but you're not going to hear this media blitz," he said. "We're content to just take it slow and easy, and accommodate those who come."

Even without much advertising, there has been interest from independent tour operators, who tend to focus on historic and unique experiences in Alaska. The operators like that Kenai Landing used to be a commercial cannery and still looks the part, Faulkner said.

In addition to a tourist attraction, Faulkner said he sees Kenai Landing as a boon for local residents, as an employer, a venue for art and artists, and a facility that eventually will be open year-round.

"We've got a little less than 70 people (working) out there right now who are all residents of Kenai and the central peninsula," he said.

Although vendors at Kenai Landing won't be exclusively selling arts and crafts, Faulkner said he sees a lot of potential in the Warehouse Market as a venue for local arts and artists and has been working with the Kenai Council on the Arts to both donate and lease space.

"From day one, we identified Kenai Landing as a central venue for the arts on the peninsula," he said.

Kenai Landing won't be open this winter, but the plan is eventually to keep the resort open all year round.

"By year three, we hope to be open year round," Faulkner said. "That's our intent; our budgeting reflects that."

Faulkner noted he recently saw red salmon surface "en masse" near the dock at Kenai Landing for the first time and thought the abundance of salmon might translate to a lot of visitors to Kenai Landing over the weekend.

"I think we're going to get deluged this weekend by dipnetters," he said.

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