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Old Posted Jan 22, 2010, 4:59 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Memphis airport officials unveil plans for ground transportation center

The Commercial Appeal | By Wayne Risher

This illustration shows the Memphis International Airport Ground Transportation Center that will be built starting in March.
Photo courtesy of the Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority

Airport officials unveiled plans Wednesday for a new ground transportation center that amounts to a new front door for Memphis International Airport. They said the center, which combines passenger parking and rental cars next to the terminal building, will create a dramatic and attractive new first impression for people entering the airport by way of ground transportation. The seven-level center will be sheathed with perforated metal panels, reminiscent of a large airplane wing. It will be accented by screened lighting and adorned with a 40-foot-tall airport logo: a jet with a contrail shaped like a musical note. Most of the 1960s terminal building, with its distinctive champagne glass design by architect Roy Harrover, will no longer be visible from the entrance road.

This illustration shows a walkway and courtyard in the planned Memphis International Airport Ground Transportation Center, which will be constructed starting in March. Photo courtesy of the Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority.

"Memphis is transportation and Memphis is music, so it makes perfect sense," said Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane, who joined business and community leaders for an unveiling of project plans and renderings at Hilton Memphis. "I think the design is spectacular. It has that classic modern look you're beginning to see at world-class airports around the world," Kane added. Architect Marty Gorman, president of Memphis Heritage, had a different reaction. "The classic terminal building, with its strong axial automobile approach, is totally blocked by this seven story behemoth! Most unfortunate," Gorman said in an e-mail. Available land and functionality dictated the new building would become the airport's most visible entry feature, along with a 336-foot-tall air traffic control tower that's under construction.

Airport officials wanted to combine passenger parking and rental cars in one building to save on construction costs and eliminate shuttle busing for rental car users. The logical spot for the building was a long-term parking lot between the existing three-level parking deck and the control tower. "Great care has been taken to make this a highly attractive facility, the nation's most functional and passenger-centric facility, a green approach to ground transportation and a complement to the existing airport infrastructure," said Airport Authority president and CEO Larry Cox. The center will house rental car counters, service functions and up to 1,250 rental cars on the bottom two floors. There will be 4,500 public spaces for passenger parking on the upper five floors. A landscaped, atrium-like corridor with sidewalks and moving walkways will connect the new building to the terminal, where escalators will lead up to the baggage claim level. Flintco Inc. has an $89.4 million contract to build the center, starting in March and finishing in 2012. Authority chairman Arnold Perl said, "The new Ground Transportation Center will transform the experience for the traveling public. It will further enhance the customer service experience, which ranks third already according to J.D. Powers for medium-sized airports." Greater Memphis Chamber chairman Tom Schmitt applauded the focus on customer service and said he thinks it will give the airport a second "wow factor" architecturally, in addition to the terminal building. "I like it. It projects the right image and it's looking forward. It's making something that works already, even better."

Last edited by Johnny Ryall; Aug 2, 2016 at 3:52 AM.
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