Community support for West Michigan Regional (BIV) in Holland, MI, is highly visible to anyone arriving at the general aviation airport. Literally. Contributors who donated to the "Earn Your Wings" fundraising campaign will be formally recognized on a permanent display in BIV's new Airport Business Center, the primary showpiece of a $7 million improvement program that also added a parking lot and expanded the existing aircraft apron.
Greg Robinson, airport authority manager, explains that BIV's facilities would not be what they are today without the financial support of local businesses, charitable organizations and community members. The project, completed in September, has been on the table for years. "The building was so out of date-it's been a need for a long time," he notes.
Unfortunately, donations from the community were not just a tangible show of support; they were a financial necessity. When the project went out to bid, BIV officials determined that federal, state and airport authority funds would not cover the project's full projected cost.
Project: New Terminal; New Parking Lot;
Location: West Michigan Regional Airport
Operator: West Michigan Regional Airport Authority
Total Cost: $7 million
Terminal Cost: $2.5 million
Terminal Size: 7,500 sq. ft.
Total Funding: Federal (34%); State (44%);
Airport Authority (15%); Local Donations (7%)
Prime Consultant: Mead & Hunt
Terminal Architect: Progressive AE
Site Work & Apron Construction:
Milbocker & Sons
Terminal Construction: CL Construction
Furniture Donations: Herman Miller; Haworth
Primary Objectives: Replace 1950s modular home with building designed as airport terminal; reflect corporate & economic success of surrounding area
"We deleted a number of items from both sides (terminal and apron) to bring the project within budget," Robinson explains.
Then the airport began its fundraising efforts.
Thanks to tremendous community support, the airport received enough donations to add back nearly everything that was cut. The recent influx of donations from corporations, organizations and private citizens is just one example of the support the airport has received over the years, notes Robinson. "There's no way this airport would be developed the way it is-the runway length we have, the new terminal and apron, some of the repairs and enhancements we've done-without additional private support," he emphasizes.
For BIV's most recent project, federal funds covered 34% of costs, and money from the state of Michigan, including economic development funds and airport division dollars, paid for 44%. West Michigan Regional Airport Authority contributed 15%, and fully 7% came from private donations-leaving the airport debt-free after the project.
The city of Holland owns the land occupied by BIV, and the airport authority owns its aboveground assets such as the terminal building, equipment, etc. The authority, which includes representatives from the cities of Holland, Zeeland and Park Township, was established in 2008. Until 2011, BIV was known as Tulip City Airport. Currently, it logs about 50,000 annual operations.
The previous terminal facility was an early-1950s modular home, and the airport manager worked out of what had been a bedroom. "We outgrew the building years ago, and in no way [did] the building reflect the economic vitality and health of this area," Robinson comments, noting that a number of large corporations maintain headquarters in Holland and the surrounding region.
"They've spent tens of millions of dollars improving their buildings functionally and aesthetically. We wanted to make sure that whatever we did design-wise would accurately reflect the community," he adds.
In addition to meeting functional needs with adequate waiting areas, pilot facilities, public meeting rooms, etc., the new terminal also needed to be a positive reflection of the community.
As a result, roughly $2.5 million of the project's total budget was devoted to designing and building the new terminal. Other primary expenses included property acquisition, site work, a new parking lot and expansion of an airside apron.
Mead & Hunt began working with BIV in 2005, when the airport hired the firm to conduct a terminal feasibility study commissioned by the city of Holland. At that time, BIV was a city-run airport, recalls Jeff Thoman, a project manager with Mead & Hunt. Eventually, the firm also managed preliminary engineering, environmental clearance, land acquisition and design/construction of the new terminal building; site work; and the 17,225-square-yard apron expansion. Design of the terminal building was subcontracted to Progressive AE of Grand Rapids, as the airport authority placed a high value on using a local architect.
To create space for the new terminal and apron, the authority purchased 15 acres of adjacent farmland. A ditch that originally ran through the project site was relocated to the north end of the airport property. After roughly 18 months of land acquisition and design work, construction began in August 2015.
Environmental clearance posed some challenges for the airport, Thoman notes. The site of the new terminal is adjacent to a wetland and the Tulip Intercounty Drain, which serves several counties. Mead & Hunt, in conjunction with BIV, completed an environmental assessment and ultimately only had to conduct about one acre of mitigation. The airport purchased wetland credits to offset the wetland impact, and the flood plain impacts were mitigated during the project itself through the creation of several detention ponds, Thoman explains.
A snowmelt system for sidewalks will be a welcome amenity for customers during Michigan’s icy, cold winters.
BIV hired separate construction contractors for various elements of the project. Milbocker & Sons performed site and apron work, and CL Construction was responsible for constructing the building. Robinson praises both for their flexibility throughout the project. "Not only did we cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from the initial contract, but then they had to work with us in adding that back in as the construction moved along," Thoman says of the contractors. "That wasn't always the easiest."
"Even with the reductions that were [planned], it still would have been a wonderful project," he reflects. "But it was great they were able to find the money to bring everything back in."
The Community's Airport
During the design phase, airport authority members were clear that the terminal had to be impressive, because it is the first and last impression visitors have of the airport, explains Ken Brandsen, project manager with Progressive AE.
The community also played an integral role in design and planning, Robinson notes. A committee of about 30 area residents met several times to discuss the function and look of the new facility "to make sure that it met with the economic perception of the community," he explains.
Committee members provided a broad perspective on the region to help the design team develop its plan, adds Brandsen. Progressive AE led the committee through a series of exercises to help coalesce the final design of the facility. To some degree, the exterior mimics the wing of an aircraft, while the airside features plenty of glass to provide transparency and a welcoming feel, Brandsen says.
Pleotint, a local corporation, manufactured the low-emissivity glass installed in the new terminal. A self-tinting film within the architectural glass automatically darkens as the intensity of sunlight on the window increases during the day. In addition to decreasing glare, the special glass also helps reduce solar heat gain.
Overall, the new building is "quite a contrast" to the previous facility, Brandsen remarks.
In addition to new offices for airport management, the terminal also includes leased space for Tulip City Air, BIV's fixed-base operator for more than 30 years. "We've always had a very positive, close relationship with the FBO," Robinson states. "We've always worked well together. We benefit from the synergy of us being in the same space."
On the public side of the building, there is a large lobby, meeting/conference facilities, and functional space for receiving passengers and pilots. Robinson estimates that 95% of the airport's traffic is corporate aircraft. The new conference rooms will provide an opportunity for those who do not fly corporately to experience the airport, he notes.
Local furniture manufacturers Haworth and Herman Miller each donated $75,000 in furnishings for the new terminal. "Their contributions certainly send a message to those who are entering the building or holding meetings in the building," Robinson remarks.
Exterior projects include a snowmelt system for sidewalks and a new parking lot with about 100 spaces and a cul-de-sac area for dropping off passengers. The snowmelt system was one of the elements cut from initial plans for budget purposes, but it was added back in when a donor contributed funds specifically earmarked for the winter feature.
In terms of size, Robinson says the new 7,500-square-foot terminal is "just right for what we do now" with provisions for expansion or modification as the airport and FBO evolve. "We certainly meet the needs of today, and we've developed an airport that should meet the needs of the community in the near future," he observes. "But we always have to be on the lookout and try to be aware of trends and conversations that may be going on in the community."