The biggest remake to the Chattanooga Airport passenger terminal since it opened in 1992 will jet it into the 21st century, officials said Thursday in approving the $7.2 million project.
But they said the new carpet, tile flooring, paint, windows, doors, restrooms, escalators and other changes won't take away from its historic feel. The iconic copper dome atop the terminal won't change, even though it's slated for an upgrade on the inside, officials said.
"We want to make sure the unique qualities are retained," said Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority chairman.
The 1990s teal color accent of the terminal will go, however. In its place will be grays, tans, reds, faux wood and stainless steel, architects said.
Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive, said the new look will bolster the vibrancy of one of the city's key gateways.
"It will be a complete renovation of the building. It will be from top to bottom," Hart said of the work that also will include the passenger concourse and baggage pickup area.
Plans are to start work in May and finish by February 2014, Hart said. Much of the work will go on at night, and there will be wooden barricades at times for travelers to watch out for, he said.
Nearly two-thirds of the project cost will come from proceeds of the $4.50 passenger facility charge levied on each airline ticket at the airport, officials said. State funds will pay for another third. Airport money and the customer facility charge on rental cars will pay for 4 percent of the project, they said.
Drew Brandon, a air traveler from Pennsylvania, said the airport terminal "definitely is needing touching up in places."
Chattanoogan Donny Bradley, who was flying out of the city for spring break, said the work is needed to attract new business.
"You've got to invest and get ahead of it," he said.
Airport boardings are growing, even though a large number of air travelers from the Chattanooga area continue to drive to other airports to fly.
Airport Authority member Jim Hall said he wants people who use the airport "to feel the excitement and creativity of the city as they get off the aircraft."
"I think it's outstanding," added panel member Gene Veazy about the plan.
Farzana Mitchell, another board member, called for putting up more art and banners, and for attracting local companies as sponsors.
Roof replacement work also will take place at the same time, said airport spokeswoman Christina Siebold. Also outside, the terminal will receive a new awning and signs.
Hart added that a family restroom will be added to the terminal for the first time.
"Restrooms are one of the top three drivers of customer satisfaction for airports," he said.
Architect Andy Roth of Chattanooga-based Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson recalled that he worked on designing the terminal in the late 1980s and is involved in the revamp as well.
EMJ Corp. Executive Vice President Doug Martin said the Chattanooga company will manage the construction project and termed it "an important milestone."
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