An open house last Friday offered visitors a chance to tour the new Independent Living Center offices and take a peek inside the remodeled building that most recently was the Pioneer Building Pizzeria.
Building owners Harmon and Polly Hall purchased the building at 265 E. Pioneer Ave. in 2012 from Stan and Nikki Welles, who used it as a home after the pizza business closed in 2002. Harry Feyer originally built the concrete-block structure, opening it in 1952 as the Pioneer Hardware Building.
“It’s a very stable building, well built,” Hall said. “The concrete walls — that thing will be there forever.”
Over the years it had housed a beauty salon, a magistrate’s office and a bed and breakfast.
“I got a box of keys. There must be 300 of them,” Harmon Hall said.
The Halls totally gutted the inside of the building and upgraded the insulation beyond the 1-inch thick batting that had been in there. All new plumbing, electrical wiring and communications wiring were added. Remodeling was like an archaeological dig.
“There were things we found in the walls and stuff we have to figure out what they were,” Hall said.
The Halls also put in a hip roof, replacing the flat, sometimes leaky roof. A timber-frame front porch by Dave Stutzer also changes the lines of the building, but a curved, glass-brick wall at the main entry remains. Steve Schulz was the primary contractor. A lower parking lot was added, with access from Pioneer Avenue. A new shed-roof room on the south wall breaks up the three-story wall. A stairwell was added on the east wall.
A heated concrete sidewalk up from the lower lot illustrates a key feature of the remodel: it’s completely accessible under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A long ramp goes from the lot to street level. Independent Living Center offices on the second floor have access through a lift, a single-person elevator.
The wide halls and doorways, low counters in the staff kitchen, and an accessible bathroom all fit in with the ILC’s mission of advocating for disability rights and providing information and services for people and families living with disabilities. The ILC also offers training in daily living skills, a community closet of disability aids, vision services support and its TRAILS recreation program.
First American Title is on the first floor, and had said it wanted to move in as soon as the remodel was done. Office space also is available for rent on the bottom, downstairs floor. Hall said he’s in negotiations right now with a possible tenant.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Independent Living Center Homer
Address: 265 E. Pioneer Ave.
Video Relay Service: 206-455-8905
ILC offices also are located in Soldotna, Seward and Kodiak Island