This story was updated at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, with more information.
"I'm confident we'll find one of those that will do a very good job for us." — Chattanooga Airport CEO Terry Hart on six bidders for parking garage
Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials are looking at starting work early next year on an estimated $25 million parking garage to go near the passenger terminal.
Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive, said that six companies have submitted bids to construct the parking garage, which has been pegged at four levels high and offering 1,300 spaces.
The garage, the airport's first, likely would open in early 2021, Hart said at a meeting of the Airport Authority on Monday.
Hart said the financial piece of building the garage is complete with a deal struck with Pinnacle Bank.
The garage would go on what is now some of the short-term parking lot across from the existing rental car location, he said. Upon completion, the rental car operations would move to the ground floor of the garage, Hart said.
The airport already has set another new record for annual passenger boardings with a month to go.
Earlier this year, the airport constructed a 520-space economy parking lot off Airport Road with shuttle service to the terminal as Lovell Field tries to deal with passenger traffic. To help pay for the parking expansion and other improvements, the airport raised parking fees for the first time in six years.
Hart said airport officials now will take time to review the half-dozen bids for the garage.
"We'll take some time to go through. We'll have a discussion with the board," he said. "I'm confident we'll find one of those that will do a very good job for us."
At the same time, airport officials are laying the groundwork for the biggest expansion of the passenger terminal in more than 25 years as Lovell Field posts its string of six record years of traffic.
Officials have said that design of the possible expanded terminal may start next year. Construction on that expansion may begin in 2021, they've said. The work might add four or five more gates for aircraft, as well as boost concourse space for passenger restrooms, restaurants and another potential security checkpoint line.
Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman, said he's excited about projections that the airport will top 550,000 boardings for 2019.
"It's another phenomenal year," he said. Officials have cited the strong local economy and more flights as reasons for the higher boardings.
Meanwhile, growth is spilling over the airport's property boundaries into the larger Brainerd area.
City Councilwoman Carol Berz said private developers are expressing a lot of interest in future commercial or residential projects near the airport.
"I'm getting a lot of calls from developers," said Berz about the Lee Highway, Airport Road and Shepherd Road areas near Lovell Field which a study earlier this year indicated is poised for new development.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.