Gerald R Ford International unveils expanded Concourse A

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The Gerald R Ford International Airport Authority has completed Phase 1 of its expanded Concourse A at Ford International Airport in West Michigan. The new concourse forms part of a US$110m project to accommodate passenger growth.

Concourse A Phase I, which opened to the public June 16, primarily serves guests flying American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, and has added: eight new gates bringing the total gates to 14; expanded gate space areas to accommodate larger size aircraft; new concession and retail concepts; a greater variety of seating options; and a new companion care restroom which includes an adult changing table.

The expansion is part of the Elevate program, which is designating more than US$500m in critical infrastructure investments to improve the guest experience while positioning the airport for continued growth. The Concourse A project created more than 125 new construction jobs and added more than 155,000ft2 of space to Michigan’s second-largest airport.

The airport selected Paradies Lagardère as its partner to oversee the new concession and retail concepts in the new Concourse A extension, which features many local businesses. New concession concepts include a beer garden known as Aletitude, Freddy’s, Uccello’s Ristorante, Blue Bridge Market space, which will feature local cuisine from Madcap Coffee Company and Nantucket Bakery, and a news and gifts stand called Thornapple Essentials. To furnish the space, Haworth, MillerKnoll and Steelcase all supplied contemporary pieces to provide travelers with a greater variety of seating options.

The airport will now transition to Phase 2 of the project, which will close the gates of the existing portion of Concourse A to undergo widening and renovations and add a second-level executive lounge and additional amenities for passengers. It is expected Phase 2 will be completed in 2024. The new executive lounge on an elevated level overlooking Concourse A will cater to the business traveler needs, putting the airport on par with larger airports, including Chicago, Boston and Atlanta.

The Christman Company serves as the general contractor for Concourse A while Mead & Hunt is the design project manager and HKS the architect of record. More than 30 West Michigan subcontractors brought their expertise and local suppliers to the project.

As it prepared to design the expansion, HKS led a visioning session with airport stakeholders to ensure the principal concepts of community and the physical attributes of West Michigan were brought into the space. Local artists played a key role in Concourse A’s design providing a sense of place and showcasing the regional talent. The extension will have three art features, including custom terrazzo flooring, a suspended art installation and wall art. The four artists selected to feature permanent terrazzo designs are George Eberhardt III, Kim Nguyen, Maureen Nollette and Michael Pfleghaar. The suspended art installation and multiple wall art locations will be added to Concourse A during Phase 2.

Infrastructure improvements under the Elevate program are also underway. The addition of a federal inspection station (FIS) will enable the airport to offer non-stop international commercial passenger flights. This project was announced in August 2019, and the first phase – the addition of a new baggage claim area, restrooms and operations infrastructure – has been completed. These improvements are being used for domestic flights until the full FIS project is complete.

The current air traffic control tower (ATCT) will be relocated, to make way for diverse terminal-area developments such as additional tenant hangars and more parking. The airport has selected a new site, which was reviewed and approved virtually by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2021 – the first-ever such virtual sighting of an ATCT. With the site plan complete, efforts now transition to the design phase in 2023.

A consolidated rental car facility (CONRAC), with an enclosed walkway from the terminal, will offer additional transportation accommodations to travelers visiting West Michigan. This project broke ground in May 2023 with an expected completion date in 2025. Additional parking capacity will also be added to accommodate increased guest traffic.

Additionally, plans have been proposed to expand the terminal to accommodate a new checked baggage inspection system (CBIS), which will streamline the post-ticket counter journey for baggage, decrease the processing time and increase capacity.

With the support from US DOT’s Airport Terminal Grant Program, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the airport received more than US$8.6m for the integration of eight new passenger boarding bridges on the newly designated gate spaces. No local taxpayer dollars are being used to finance any of the projects included in the Elevate program, which will be paid for with a combination of federal and state grants, municipal bonds issued by the airport and user fees.

Tory Richardson, president and CEO of the airport authority, said, “We are delighted to celebrate this significant milestone in the monumental transformation of our state-of-the-art Concourse A. This investment positions us for our anticipated passenger growth trajectory for the next two decades – and ensures we continue to deliver a world-class experience as West Michigan’s gateway to the world. This project would not have been made possible without the support of local, state and national leadership, as well as our airline partners. This is an exciting day for our community as we unveil the next generation of air travel in West Michigan.”

For more key construction and architecture updates from the passenger terminal industry, click here.

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