Kenai Landing brings positive rection

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2003

Two developers have big plans for the Wards Cove cannery site in Kenai that will take the participation of the community to make reality.

Jon Faulkner of Homer and Steve Agni of Anchorage are planning to turn the historic fish processing plant into a seasonal multi-use resort, adding it to the list of their other successful visitor industry ventures in Alaska, including the Land's End Resort in Homer and the Van Gilder Hotel in Seward.

Their plans for the site include lodging, a restaurant, a fish processing operation, several forms of recreation and youth camps, as well as multiple entertainment and arts offerings.

Agni estimates it will take millions of dollars in investments to make their grand plans for the site, which they have initially dubbed Kenai Landing, materialize. Through it all, however, Agni and Faulkner say they want to maintain and restore the site's historic value.

That's good news to Kenai resident Bill Sullivan, who has had a long history with the site. Sullivan first started working at the cannery store when he was 16. About nine years later he started fishing for the company and continued to do so until Wards Cove shut down the Kenai cannery in 1999.

"I have a connection with it and a fondness with the place, so if they're going to maintain the historic flavor of it, that's encouraging," he said.

Sullivan has been safeguarding the historic value of the site in his own way by collecting artifacts from it. He saved a steam engine from a pile driver by plucking it out from beneath a cutting torch.

"It may be a glorified yard ornament, if you will, but it's got historic significance for this area," he said. "... What am I going to do with it, I don't know, but it's historic. You just don't let that stuff go so easily."

Faulkner and Agni said they want to create a museum-type display of historic artifacts at Kenai Landing and plan to ask the community for help reconstructing the site's history. Sullivan said he plans to give Faulkner a call and offer items from his collection.

In a perfect world, Sullivan would rather see the site reopen strictly as a fish processing plant, but doesn't begrudge the soon-to-be new owners their plans to broaden the scope of operations at the site.

"I guess maybe I'm a little bit old-school," he said. "My preference is to see it what it was, but change is inevitable. ... If I'm not happy with it, there's nothing I can do with it, so I might as well take the best parts with it and that's what I see -- restoring some of the buildings and maintaining the historic flavor."

Other segments of the community are particularly looking forward to the new endeavors Agni and Faulkner plan to incorporate into Kenai Landing. One plan is to build a theater and have performances four or five nights a week during the summer.

Joe Rizzo of Kenai, who runs the theater program at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School and is the president of the Alaska Children's Institute for the Performing Arts, was excited about the prospect of a new performance venue in town and especially about Agni and Faulkner's plans to have youth camps at the site.

"I think it'll be great for the community," Rizzo said. "I think any organization that comes in and provides quality programming for kids is going to be a good thing. These guys, I think, have a commitment to make this whole operation work and if the performing arts are going to be a part of it, I suspect it's going to be a good program."

The operation is a potential boon for the city of Kenai, which took a hit to its sales tax revenue when Big Kmart closed its doors. Though the opening of Home Depot should help the city's sales tax revenue recover, another commercial operation in town won't hurt.

Casey Reynolds, the city's economic development director, said the city's administration has been helping Agni and Faulkner complete the permitting process they had to go through with the city and are eager to see how the site takes off.

"We're interested to help facilitate and make easier any further development over there," he said. "... It's going to mean a lot to the city in a variety of ways."

Not only will the city get sales tax revenue from Kenai Landing, the operation also will create jobs and attract visitors to the area.

"It's a great little jumping off point and will probably be the marquee attraction for visitors on this side of the peninsula," Reynolds said.

Agni and Faulkner plan to have aspects of Kenai Landing, including lodging, fish processing and a restaurant, operational by Memor-ial Day. In three years, 75 percent of the planned development is expected to be running.

In the meantime, several sectors of the community will be watching to see how Kenai Landing takes flight.

"I hope it does positive things," Sullivan said. "I hope the area's economy, community and tourist business will be able to support it. That's got to be key in the investors' minds -- whether or not that thing will pay. It's a small town, whether or not it will support that new development will be something I'll watch with eager eyes."

HEAD:Kenai Landing brings positive reaction

BYLINE1:By JENNY NEYMAN

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Two developers have big plans for the Wards Cove cannery site in Kenai that will take the participation of the community to make reality.

Jon Faulkner of Homer and Steve Agni of Anchorage are planning to turn the historic fish processing plant into a seasonal multi-use resort, adding it to the list of their other successful visitor industry ventures in Alaska, including the Land's End Resort in Homer and the Van Gilder Hotel in Seward.

Their plans for the site include lodging, a restaurant, a fish processing operation, several forms of recreation and youth camps, as well as multiple entertainment and arts offerings.

Agni estimates it will take millions of dollars in investments to make their grand plans for the site, which they have initially dubbed Kenai Landing, materialize. Through it all, however, Agni and Faulkner say they want to maintain and restore the site's historic value.

That's good news to Kenai resident Bill Sullivan, who has had a long history with the site. Sullivan first started working at the cannery store when he was 16. About nine years later he started fishing for the company and continued to do so until Wards Cove shut down the Kenai cannery in 1999.

"I have a connection with it and a fondness with the place, so if they're going to maintain the historic flavor of it, that's encouraging," he said.

Sullivan has been safeguarding the historic value of the site in his own way by collecting artifacts from it. He saved a steam engine from a pile driver by plucking it out from beneath a cutting torch.

"It may be a glorified yard ornament, if you will, but it's got historic significance for this area," he said. "... What am I going to do with it, I don't know, but it's historic. You just don't let that stuff go so easily."

Faulkner and Agni said they want to create a museum-type display of historic artifacts at Kenai Landing and plan to ask the community for help reconstructing the site's history. Sullivan said he plans to give Faulkner a call and offer items from his collection.

In a perfect world, Sullivan would rather see the site reopen strictly as a fish processing plant, but doesn't begrudge the soon-to-be new owners their plans to broaden the scope of operations at the site.

"I guess maybe I'm a little bit old-school," he said. "My preference is to see it what it was, but change is inevitable. ... If I'm not happy with it, there's nothing I can do with it, so I might as well take the best parts with it and that's what I see -- restoring some of the buildings and maintaining the historic flavor."

Other segments of the community are particularly looking forward to the new endeavors Agni and Faulkner plan to incorporate into Kenai Landing. One plan is to build a theater and have performances four or five nights a week during the summer.

Joe Rizzo of Kenai, who runs the theater program at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School and is the president of the Alaska Children's Institute for the Performing Arts, was excited about the prospect of a new performance venue in town and especially about Agni and Faulkner's plans to have youth camps at the site.

"I think it'll be great for the community," Rizzo said. "I think any organization that comes in and provides quality programming for kids is going to be a good thing. These guys, I think, have a commitment to make this whole operation work and if the performing arts are going to be a part of it, I suspect it's going to be a good program."

The operation is a potential boon for the city of Kenai, which took a hit to its sales tax revenue when Big Kmart closed its doors. Though the opening of Home Depot should help the city's sales tax revenue recover, another commercial operation in town won't hurt.

Casey Reynolds, the city's economic development director, said the city's administration has been helping Agni and Faulkner complete the permitting process they had to go through with the city and are eager to see how the site takes off.

"We're interested to help facilitate and make easier any further development over there," he said. "... It's going to mean a lot to the city in a variety of ways."

Not only will the city get sales tax revenue from Kenai Landing, the operation also will create jobs and attract visitors to the area.

"It's a great little jumping off point and will probably be the marquee attraction for visitors on this side of the peninsula," Reynolds said.

Agni and Faulkner plan to have aspects of Kenai Landing, including lodging, fish processing and a restaurant, operational by Memor-ial Day. In three years, 75 percent of the planned development is expected to be running.

In the meantime, several sectors of the community will be watching to see how Kenai Landing takes flight.

"I hope it does positive things," Sullivan said. "I hope the area's economy, community and tourist business will be able to support it. That's got to be key in the investors' minds -- whether or not that thing will pay. It's a small town, whether or not it will support that new development will be something I'll watch with eager eyes."



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