Give ’em shelter.
That’s the idea of the Boat House project, a proposal to build a pavilion on the Homer Spit at the site of the old Harbor Office near Ramp 2.
On Mother’s Day this year, Boat House project leader Miranda Weiss said she saw an example of why the harbor could use a space for mariners and visitors to unload and stage gear and wait for water taxis. In pouring rain, students from Palmer Middle School created a fire-bucket line moving gear from a bus to a harbor ramp — and then dropped their gear in the middle of the bicycle and pedestrian path.
“It was like, yeah, here’s why we need the Boat House,” she said.
Last Thursday at a party for the Boat House, the project team unveiled its newest design, held a raffle drawing for a stay at Second Star and signed up people interested in the project. Since first presenting the idea in January, the project has made this progress:
• Raised $130,000 of the $210,000 needed to build the Boat House;
• Received a donation from Bay Welding to fabricate an aluminum mast that will rise above the Boat House and serve as a landmark on the Spit, and
• Settled on a building design by architectural firm ECI and site plan by Corvus of Anchorage. Like Bay Welding, ECI and Corvus are providing services pro bono.
With its sweeping roof, mast and boat-shaped benches, the 40-foot-by-45-foot pavilion evokes maritime lines. From above, the Boat House looks like a sail boat tacking into the wind. Open to the harbor, walls with 4-foot portholes block the wind. The pavilion anchors the northwest corner of the parking lot between Ramp 2 and the Salty Dawg.
The city of Homer has put the Boat House on its capital improvement plan list, and added additional phases of construction to fix the parking lot and added landscaping. At the party last week, Weiss said she hopes the Boat House will stimulate other projects, such as remodeling the harbor restrooms and upgrading the parking lot.
“If you make one part of an area nice, it kind of raises up the neighborhood,” she said.
A parking plan would result in a net gain of parking spaces in the nearby lot. With better planning, 77 spaces would go in there, including a 24-foot wide driving aisle circling the lot. That would move traffic toward the southwest side of the Boat House so that vehicles could drop-off passengers and gear without clogging the harbor ramps.
The site plan also mentions additions like the Giving Salmon, a salmon sculpture that will be a donation box for the Homer Foundation. The foundation has been a funding sponsor for the Boat House project — meaning it can accept donations on its behalf. One condition of sponsorship was that the Boat House plan include space for the Giving Salmon, Weiss said.
Another idea is to build-out a deck from the Boat House over the harbor. Weiss’ husband, Bob Shavelson, director of Cook Inletkeeper, said that the Boat House also could stimulate the long-sought goal of what the city calls overslope development. That would bring development to the area around the harbor, with shops and businesses on the harbor’s edge. With Blue Too water taxi owner Gart Curtis, Shavelson and Weiss are leading the Boat House project.
At last week’s party, Willy Nye asked Weiss how much the project would increase moorage rates because of the added maintenance cost. Like other harbor uses such as the fish cleaning tables, maintenance of the Boat House would be a Port and Harbor responsibility.
The Boat House also will be designed to be low-maintenance, Weiss said. She made a comparison to the Homer Playground Project, a community-built playground at Karen Hornaday Park that Weiss also helped organize.
“Every year that playground is adopted by the community and someone cleans it up,” Weiss said.
As the Boat House project nears its fundraising goal, the plan is to start construction this fall. Weiss said she envisions the Boat House bringing winter activity to the Spit. In the summer, flags or pennants could be flown from the Boat House mast, but in the winter, the mast could be decorated with lights.
“We think that there are these opportunities to do winter-time stuff on the spit that we’re not doing,” Weiss said. “This could be the hub for winter-time activities like that.”