New airport terminal puts Duluth in best lightThe end is in sight for the construction of the Duluth International Airport’s new terminal.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
The end is in sight for the construction of the Duluth International Airport’s new terminal.
The spacious entrance lobby, designed to wow, is taking shape under a sloping ceiling rising to nearly 40 feet, with expansive walls of glass and part of the second floor overlooking it.
Outside, the curved roof represents the waves of Lake Superior and the rear structure that will contain the boarding area is the brick red color of iron ore ships on the lake. Other Northland elements will be incorporated through art, the lifesize statue of Tuskegee Airman Joe Gomer of Duluth, an interior glass wall with etched images of birch trees and landscaping with native plants.
“The airport really is the gateway to the community,” said John Hippchen of Reynolds Smith and Hills which serves as the architect of record. “We wanted to make it as pleasant as possible for people traveling to and from Duluth. It’s the first thing people see coming in. We wanted to make it as pleasant an experience as we can for the flying public.”
But they wanted to do more than that. They wanted to make it a showcase. That involved the terminal’s placement on the site and how it would look from the road and parking areas, as well as considering the views from the terminal throughout the year.
“We spent a lot of time on how everything will tie together with the prairie grass, really making sure we make it a showcase for Duluth and people when they come to the community,” Hippchen said.
Officials say five more months of work remains, with mid-January the targeted opening.
The $77.5 million project, which broke ground in 2009 on the site of the former short-term parking area, is moving into its final stages. The two entrance roads, one for passenger drop off, one for cabs and buses, are in. Contractors are wrapping up numerous aspects of the construction, from installing insulation and utilities to doing interior finishing work.
“I think everybody will be impressed by it and that it
didn’t tap taxpayers to pay for it,” said Brian Ryks, who guided the project from the beginning, before stepping down Friday as the Duluth Airport Authority’s executive director. But, he says he’ll be back for its opening ceremonies.
In a construction update to the Duluth Airport Authority last week, Mike Dosan, senior project manager for Kraus-Anderson Construction Co., went down a checklist:
Third floor, 80 percent done.
Second floor, 60 percent done.
First floor, 40 percent done.
A flurry of activity this week will see escalators, glass elevators and the grand staircase installed. Outside, the drilling of 80 wells, 512 feet deep for the terminal’s geothermal heating and cooling systems will move into high gear. The drilling will take about three months, Dosan said.
“It’s kind of like a big radiator in the ground,” he explained.
It’s one of the project’s sustainable features that will garner it Silver LEED certification, a sort of environmental stamp of approval in building practices and energy efficiency.
The $5.2 million geothermal system, paid for with a $3.8 million Federal Aviation Administration grant and $1.4 million in state bonding money, is expected to save the airport $30,000 in annual utility costs.
Other green features include extensive use of natural light, low flow faucets, efficient fixtures and triple pane glass that will help reduce noise. Radiant air floors will send heat through the floor and up the sides rather than inefficiently blowing hot air down, said Hippchen, a senior aviation engineer.
Larger through design
At 110,000 square feet, the new terminal is about the same size as the old terminal. But it feels bigger with the tall ceiling, the layout is more welcoming and the design more efficient, Ryks said.
It will include two levels of U.S. Customs Service, space for more airlines to operate simultaneously, a larger waiting and boarding area past security for travelers with a restaurant, bar and restrooms. And there’s room for expansion if ever needed.
Later this year, the end of the old terminal that housed U.S. Customs and the Skyline Conference
Room will be razed. But the rest of the old terminal — which sits behind the new terminal — will remain through much of 2013.
When it is razed, waiting passengers will have a nicer view of the airfield and planes coming and going as well as the side grounds.
All told, 60 contractors, with most from Duluth, have been involved in the terminal project, creating about 260 jobs.
Construction of a four-level parking ramp that will accommodate 400 cars, begins later this year and will have a Skywalk connecting it to the terminal.
A new terminal was needed for more reasons than the old terminal, built in 1974, is tired looking and dated. New federal safety and security requirements since 9/11 must be met. The boarding area of the old terminal gets crowded with waiting passengers and doesn’t have restrooms and concessions. Barriers exist for people with disabilities and their luggage. Tails of airplane arriving and taking off impinge on restricted airspace because of the angled roof of the old terminal.
“They wanted this problem fixed by pulling the terminal back and flattening it,” Ryks said.