For the employees of the Homer Harbor, the job comes with one of the best perks around: a glorious view of the harbor, Kachemak Bay and the glaciers and peaks of the Kenai Mountains.
At the old office on the west side of the harbor, that scene might not be as obvious. From the new Homer Harbormaster’s Office on the east side across from the old chip pad, that vista stands out.
“Every window in this building has a great view,” said Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins.
In the main area, a row of windows shows the mountains and the harbor. Even a window in the break room frames a nice perspective of Poot Peak. Should windows not be enough, all a worker has to do is step outside on a public deck that’s part of a boardwalk and trail running from the Deep Water Dock to the end of the Spit.
Last week, workers with Steiner’s North Star Construction had moved to the last few pages of the punch list.
Outside, they put on siding for the front entrance wall. An antenna mast still needed to be put up. Inside, Christine Steiner touched up the paint in the deputy harbormaster’s office. Carpet and flooring has gone in, and one of three art pieces, Joshua Nordstrom’s compass rose medallion in the public lobby, has been installed.
Still to go up are a sculpture by Oakland, Calif., artist Adrien Segal, who did an artist’s residency at Bunnell Street Arts Center last year, and a historical mural by Julianne Tomich.
The biggest change harbor users will notice about the new building is its location.
Historically, harbor use has centered around the west side of the Homer Spit, with the old Harbormaster’s Office in the middle of activity by Ramp 2. The new office is on Freight Dock Road next to the Seldovia Bay Ferry ramp.
“The thing I’m most excited about is it’s beginning the overslope development and opening up more of the land for parking,” said Catherine Ulmer, chairperson of the Port and Harbor Advisory Commission, referring to the east side.
Future development of the harbor would add another boat basin to the northeast. Ulmer pointed out the new building site would give the Harbormaster’s Office a view of the new and old harbor basins.
While the new site affects walk-up customers from the west side, Hawkins said a lot of business has been drive-up — or boat up. With a pull-in lane by the road to accommodate trucks and boat trailers, and with less congestion, parking will be easier at the new Harbormaster’s Office.
Budget realities meant changing an original, two-story design to a one-story, 4,800-square-foot building. However, the building is engineered to take a second story, and includes an elevator well that’s now a storage room.
“I think they did a good job of scaling it back and making it affordable,” Ulmer said.
A simple wood-frame building, a curved wall on the harbor side evokes a nautical feel. With the outdoor deck, it looks like the bridge of a ship — or the starship Enterprise, Hawkins said. One employee said all it needed was the “NCC 1701” serial number of the spaceship from the Star Trek TV and movie series painted on the side. That nautical theme continues in the rough-wood design of the flooring and its art.
“It’s practical. It fits the character of Homer,” Ulmer said.
“It was the right project at the right time to bring us into the 21st century and able to do business on a professional level,” said Kate Mitchell, president of the Homer Marine Trades Association
An outside arctic entryway will be open 24 hours a day, with racks for harbor information. A back door also offers an entrance for employees, but with a locking gate, can close off the hallway so the public and groups like the Port and Harbor Advisory Commission of the Homer Marine Trades Association can use a conference room outside of regular office hours. Harbor officials also can meet with customers there. Fold up conference tables can be pushed back to make space for safety training.
Just having a comfortable place to do business is an economic benefit, Mitchell said.
“You’ve got a major business group interested in your facility and you want to meet and they’re proposing multimillion dollar investments?” Mitchell said. “Having a good, clean decent place to have a meeting is probably a good thing.”
A broad public counter offers plenty of space for mariners to do business, with work areas for administrative assistants behind the counter. The harbormaster and deputy harbormaster both have private offices, and harbormasters have individual work stations. A break area on the northeast side leads to a locker room and bathrooms and, at the end of the hall, a garage and indoor work area.
The new Harbormaster’s Office also represents a first for the city of Homer: the first public building designed and not retrofitted for natural gas heating.
Hawkins and Steiner’s North Star Construction will meet this week to review construction progress and what remains to be done. Steiner’s has until May 25 to finish the building, but is far enough ahead that harbor office staff could move in about April 25. Hawkins said the city plans a grand opening for the Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s a great time for us, this building process,” Hawkins said. “Folks are going to come back this spring and be blown away.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Homer Harbormaster’s Office
Location: Freight Dock Road, harbor east side
General info: Harbor officer on duty 24 hours; monitors VHF Marine Radio Channel 16
Steiner’s North Star Construction
Size: One-story, 4,800 square feet
Cost: $2,082,697 (includes boardwalk and deck)
Engineer’s estimate: $2,127,907
Subcontractors: Mark’s Drywall, Arno Construction Inc., Accel Fire Systems Inc., Steiner Enterprises Inc., Woodworth Electric Inc., Master’s Way Construction LLC, Northern Craft Homes, Gregoire Construction, Statewide Door and Glass, CRL Services LLC
Port and Harbor Department staff:
Bryan Hawkins, harbormaster
Matt Clarke, deputy harbormaster
Lisa Ellington, administrative supervisor
Rachel Tussey, administrative secretary
Sarah Goosens, administrative assistant
Aaron Glidden, port maintenance supervisor
Brian McCarthy, maintenance technician
Pike Ainsworth, maintenance technician
George Tyrer, fish dock supervisor
Don Huffnagle, fish dock operator
Burt Gregory, fish dock operator
Being planned for Memorial day weekend
“The thing I’m most excited about is it’s beginning the overslope development and opening up more of the land for parking.”
— Catherine Ulmer, chairperson of the Port and Harbor Advisory Commission, referring to the east side