Business class is not just reserved for flying.
A new Kenai venture is opening up the possibilities of taking the office on the road. The McLennan House in Kenai will be an executive haven, owners said, giving business travelers a place to stay where they can set up shop all to themselves. Those living on the central Kenai Peninsula who need a place to hold conferences, seminars or small business functions have a place to hold court, as well.
"McLennan House is very opportune for the business-minded," said owner Cheney McLennan. "We'll refer to the building as a conference room with overnight accommodations."
McLennan built the three-bedroom, two bath house on Davidson Street in 1994 from Douglas fir two-by-fours and two-by-sixes he acquired from the old Wildwood U.S. Air Force Base. It has since, been remodeled to hold meetings of between 24 and 30 people and sleep up to six. McLennan said those staying overnight at the ranch-style house will be able to enjoy the same freedoms they would in their own office or house. And he said he will not cater to tourists.
"We're strictly after the business class," McLennan said. "The typical business person, in a hotel room has so many distractions. It's for people who come to town who want privacy."
The meeting space, a converted garage has the amenities of a small conference room one might find in an office building, including copy and fax machines, Internet connections, a projection screen, a TV monitor with cable and a VCR and the ability to set up either classroom or meeting arrangements.
"Tourism goes up and down," McLennan said. "There are a lot of lodges and hotels here. But we don't see any place on the peninsula that caters to service."
McLennan's partner, Lori Chase, will manage the property and provide the service part of the business. Owner of The Chase Is Over Catering, Chase will offer her culinary skills and event coordination expertise to guests who require it.
"I could have one of my employees prepare meals. It's like you would have your own maid and cook if you needed," she said.
Or clients, including those wanting to hold holiday office parties, could fend for themselves in the fully equipped kitchen, Chase said.
Chase and McLennan lived together in the house for five years before moving into a new, larger home on property across the street earlier this summer. Chase said they envisioned the use for McLennan House while they were building their new home. She said the combination of their talents -- McLennan is a professional excavator who designs homes -- helped them come up with the idea.
"We were going to rent it out on a monthly basis," she said. "Then the light bulb went on and we were like, 'Wow!' We can really do something with this. Knowing what I did, and what he could do, it just made sense."
More is on the way, McLennan said.
"We have a bigger goal in mind down the road," he said.
McLennan House is the beginning of a conference center that he and Chase envision will be able to accommodate weddings, conferences, meetings and large functions. McLennan now own the five-acre parcel across from McLennan House, where their current home sits. On that land between their home and the beaver pond, they plan to erect several cabins, a four-plex with a covered courtyard in the center, a set of honeymoon cabins, a new kitchen for The Chase Is Over, a bunkhouse and a 7,000-square-foot lodge for large functions. There are even plans to rent ice skates for people to use in the winter when the adjacent pond freezes over.
Chase said the property has already been prepped with sewer, water, phone and cable connections, and she said the kitchen for her catering business will go up next, with plans for completion by December. But the entire plan will take some time to come together, she said.
"It will five to 10 years for everything to get done," Chase said. "The lodge will be the last thing in order to do everything and not have to take out a lot of loans. We wanted to do it first, but we believe in sweat equity."
McLennan will begin the process of getting a conditional-use permit from the city of Kenai in order to begin doing business from the residential neighborhood it sits in. He said changes in the local business atmosphere meant that they would have to rethink their initial plans for opening.
"We thought of having a long-term (lease) to one of the service industries," McLennan said, hoping to attract Kenai companies who might have frequent visits from corporate executives and dignitaries. "But right now, a lot of the oil companies are in flux, so we're going to have to go back to our original plans."
The conditional use permitting process takes about three weeks to complete, at the least. But Chase said she is confident they will receive support from their neighborhood.
"Our neighbors are behind us because we're not going to increase the traffic through here," she said. "Our clientele is going to be different than what you might have at a bed and breakfast."
Chase said the peninsula's economy, although faced with adversity of late, is ready for the type of business center she and McLennan will begin developing with McLennan House. And she expects their business to grow with the economy.
"Even after Sept. 11, I feel this community is growing," she said. "It's apparent with the contracts I have through The Chase. The community has nowhere to go but up. That's the reason why this house is in such a fantastic spot."
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