• Ocean Shores strip mall gets new look, new use for visitor support
By Naomi Klouda
A new look goes up at the Ocean Shores Seaside Lodging this month, a redesign of the current mall into a hotel reception, restaurant and Federal Express office that could revitalize businesses in the area for better tourism access.
Mike Warburton’s design transforms the single-story mall into an historic cannery-like structure with its elevated roof. The architectural design makes sense for Homer’s seaside area overlooking Bishop’s Beach, where the Warburton’s have operated the Ocean Shores the past 18 years.
“This building will give the hotel more of a presence on the Sterling Highway, and it will give us a bigger area for a lobby-reception desk,” Warburton said during a tour on Thursday. Total Office Products, owned by Fran McCampbell, operates the local Fed Ex Office, a busy hub in the summer months as visitors drop off fish to be shipped home. The building’s design creates a special place for that operation in the opposite side of where it is now located.
“There will be a hallway leading from the lobby to the restaurant, which will be able to take advantage of the great view” of mountains and Kachemak Bay, Warburton said. As yet, he doesn’t have a particular cafe in mind and is open to hearing from restaurant owners wanting to lease space.
The mall has served through the years for a variety of businesses and agencies. The Time Bandit Store rented space for a time, as did a few consignments and it also was leased by agencies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leased the buildings for a few years before moving to its Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. That agency required certain specifications that remain with the building today, such as large public bathrooms.
“That saves us from having to install those, since we already have them,” he said.
The entire redesign is financed through First National Bank in part to fund a total conversion to natural gas. Warburton is getting the building and the Ocean Shores ready now for when gas flows through the distribution system this fall.
“We figured converting is going to save us a lot of money – maybe as much as $30,000 per year. That will just about offset the increase in loan payments.” he said.
Warburton purchased the four-acre property in 1994 with its strip mall and several of the Ocean Shores units there. The buildings date to 1970s construction, but at least one of the units dated back much further, to the 1950s.
“I found it dated back that far when I found a balled up newspaper from 1953 with an Oldsmobile advertisement,” he said.
The Warburtons added more rooms to bring the total to 39 and periodically through the years remodeled the mall to fit lease requirements. It served as space for the Lion and the Lamb Book Store, the Bahai Faith Center, Tech Connect, Dede’s Hair Care, Cherish McCallum’s music studio, Time Bandit’s retail shop and various consignment shop owners. For a time, South Peninsula Hospital had its home health care department there.
Warburton was raised in Moose Pass and recalled coming to Homer in the summer time. “It would be sunny, and I loved Homer and the sandy beaches and knew I wanted to live here someday,” he said.
Instead, he was “sentenced” to Anchorage from 1970-1994 working at first as a computer programer and then as the senior vice president of IT for AlaskaUSA Credit Union. During that time, Warburton saw the credit union through two huge computer conversions. He also brought the telephone service center from Seattle to Anchorage, which created 100 jobs there, he said.
When daughter Molly was born, he figured Homer would be the ideal town to raise her. “That’s been the best decision I ever made,” he says now.
The remodeled building is Warburton’s vision for updating and beautifying that side of the Sterling Highway. His design provides support for greater Fed Ex-Total Office Products exposure and will provide more dining opportunities for the nearby RV Park neighbors and ice cream shop. He likes that he is introducing an historic architecture back into the mix of log structures, artistic buildings and cozy seaside homes that make up the entrance to downtown Homer.
“This building duplicates an old Alaska seafoods cannery – it has the cupola like it would have had in the past when they used a sky light so they could light the cannery better in the old days. They might not have electricity, but instead used kerosene lamps,” he said. In this case, for energy efficiency, Warburton is enclosing the roof rather than losing heat to the cupola.
He hopes to hold a Homer Chamber of Commerce Mixer to celebrate the new design’s coming opening, just in time for a new season of visitors this summer.
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