Portland Int’l Mounts Multibillion-Dollar Capital Campaign to Stay on Top

Portland Int’l Mounts  Multibillion-Dollar Capital Campaign to Stay on Top
Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Portland International (PDX) regularly ranks among the nation’s top airports for amenities, customer service and traveler satisfaction. Travel + Leisure magazine has rated PDX the best U.S. airport for seven consecutive years. Money magazine ranked it No. 1 in 2019, up from second place in 2018. 

The Oregon airport consistently scores high points for customer comforts such as Wi-Fi access and its array of restaurants, bars and retail shops. Travelers can also visit a spa or get their hair trimmed at a barbershop. Concourse C even has a small 17-seat cinema that shows short G-rated films.

But remaining on top takes work and investment. And that’s exactly what the Port of Portland is doing—to the tune of about $2.25 billion. Responding to growth projections in the airport’s 2010 Master Plan, management identified key infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate the anticipated 2.3% annual growth and 27 million passengers by 2035. (Last year, just shy of 20 million traveled through PDX.)


Project: Widespread Capital Improvements

Location: Portland (OR) Int’l Airport

Key Initiatives: Rental Car Quick Turnaround Facility; Concourse E Extension; Concourse B Redevelopment & Concourse A Demolition; Consolidated Rental Car Facility & Parking Garage; Terminal Expansion & Remodel

Umbrella Campaign: PDX Next

Timeline: 2018-2025

Anticipated Total Cost: $2.25 billion

Funding: Airlines; rental car companies; FAA; TSA

Architects: Mackenzie (quick turnaround facility); YGH Architecture (parking garage); Hennebery Eddy, Fentress (Concourse E); ZGF Architects (Concourse B & terminal core)

General Contractors: Hoffman Construction (quick turnaround facility); JE Dunn (parking garage); Hoffman/Skanska JV (Concourse B & terminal core); Skanska (Concourse E)

Impetus: Projected 2.3% annual growth rate, resulting in 27 million annual passengers by 2035

The five primary projects, collectively referred to under the banner of PDX Next, are:

• a new $67 million rental car quick turnaround facility, which opened in March 2018; 

• the extension of Concourse E, scheduled for completion this June at a cost of $215 million; 

• the redevelopment of Concourse B and demolition of Concourse A, slated to be finished in summer 2021 for $100 million; 

• a new $282 million consolidated rental car facility and parking garage, which is expected to open in late 2021; and 

• a terminal expansion and remodel, with an expected budget of $1.65 billion and completion slated for 2025.

“An airport is a system,” reflects PDX Chief Projects Officer Vince Granato. “We look at it holistically. We had completed a lot of work on the airfield leading up to the 2010 Master Plan. But in developing the Master Plan, we found that projected growth in traffic demanded that we address other parts of the system, which included close-in parking, rental car operations and the terminal building itself. You can have all the airspace capacity you want, but if people can’t get to and through your facilities, you have a problem.”

What to Tackle First?

Granato acknowledges that it is unusual to have so many projects going on simultaneously, but notes that they had to be done that way. The pieces fit together, despite the significant impact each has on the airport’s infrastructure and operations. 

It was determined that rental car operations would be the first area stressed by increasing passenger volume. Moreover, leases were coming up, the rental car companies needed additional facilities, and PDX wanted all eight to be onsite and closer to the terminal building. Currently, three are off-site operations. 

It quickly became evident that the companies needed a quick turnaround facility closer to the terminal. The original 25-year-old facility where they cleaned, washed and refueled their rental vehicles was “drastically undersized and terribly inefficient from an operations standpoint,” notes Granato. The new facility is much more efficient and environmentally friendly, with a system that reclaims, treats and reuses wash water. 

Granato reports that the rental car companies were very supportive of the project and agreed to pay for the building costs and sign new 20-year agreements. 

At PDX, rental car operations are closely tied to customer parking. Currently, and until the new garage opens, rental cars are parked on the two lower levels of the short-term garage. Due to space constraints, not all rental car companies can keep vehicles on site; and those that do limit the number of slots available for short-term customer parking. When the new garage opens in 2021, all rental cars will be consolidated on the lower two floors, and 550 short-term parking slots will become available for customers on the second floor. In total, the new garage will add 2,450 parking spaces near the terminal.  

Moving all rental car operators onsite and close to the terminal will eliminate the need for shuttle service to and from remote facilities, and, in turn, help ease traffic congestion and reduce overall vehicle emissions. In addition, the new short-term parking spaces that are created should encourage drivers to leave their vehicles in the garage and duck into the terminal to meet passengers rather than circling the pickup area, which adds to traffic congestion and emissions. 

After space is freed in the current short-term parking garage, management tentatively plans to move ride-share operations into the lower level of the short-term garage. “Currently, Uber, Lyft and other ride-share operations work along our lower commercial roadway,” Granato explains. “There are times when the traffic gets backed up onto Airport Way, the highway leading into the airport. We are conducting a study now, but I expect that we will move ride-share operations to the first floor of the parking garage after the rental cars move out. It will get them off the roadway and make it easier for drivers to pick up travelers on the lower roadway outside of baggage claim.”

Terminal Balancing 

Currently, about 70% of passengers and 75% of baggage at PDX move through concourses A, B and C on the south side of the terminal. Not surprisingly, this can hamper traffic flow at the TSA checkpoints and create significant challenges for baggage screeners and concessionaires. To better balance the volume between the south and north concourses, the airport is adding six new gates to Concourse E on the north side of the terminal. 

Southwest Airlines has agreed to lease all six new gates. When it moves onto Concourse E, space will be freed up for other carriers on Concourse C. Ultimately, concourses B and C will handle 50% of the traffic on the south side of the terminal and concourses D and E will accommodate the other half on the north side.  

The $215 million Concourse E extension, which is scheduled for completion in June, will include seven new concessions. The new 150,000-square-foot area is being outfitted with large upper windows to add more natural light, and a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows on the east end to showcase the snowcapped peak of Mount Hood. Juliett, a bar dedicated to women in aviation, will offer the best views at the airport, reports Granato. Located at the far end of the extension, it is being developed by Lightning Bar Collective, the group behind some of the area’s favorite drinking places.  

“We try to create a Portland neighborhood feel throughout the concourse,” Granato explains. Concessions are gathered together in two pods rather than being scattered along the concourse. Local restaurants and shops, including Oregon’s famous Tillamook Creamery and independent record label and craft boutique Tender Loving Empire, were selected to give travelers a taste of Portland’s good life. Two installations by environmental artist Jacob Hashimoto portray elements of the Pacific Northwest with clouds of kite-like discs and abstractions of Portland icons in undulating landscapes that float overhead.

Addition & Subtraction

On the south side of the terminal, the airport will demolish Concourse A and remodel/expand Concourse B. Management debated what to do with the outdated Concourse A, which was built in the late 1980s, and eventually decided to remove it and extend Concourse B by 300 feet.

When Southwest moves to Concourse E, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air can spread out on Concourse B, which will have six groundload holdrooms. The airport is also adding an additional jet bridge, for a total of four loading bridge positions. 

Demolition of Concourse A is scheduled to begin this fall, and the remodeled Concourse B is slated to open in summer 2021. The renovated space will include include high ceilings with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow travelers to watch planes take off and climb skyward. Project designers specified extensive greenery in the common areas to bring nature indoors. Two local food and beverage operations—Screen Door and Good Coffee—will be added to the concessions lineup.

“The remodeled Concourse B will provide a much better experience for passengers in terms of concessions, cellphone charging stations, seating and other amenities,” Granato emphasizes.

Granddaddy Project

With its four smaller projects either completed, in process or scheduled for construction, PDX is gearing up for the April 2020 design presentation of its granddaddy project: the $1.65 billion expansion and rehab of the terminal core, slated for completion in 2025.

“The expanded and renovated terminal will be designed to accommodate traveler growth over the next 15 to 20 years,” Granato relates. “Our current building is actually six or seven buildings that have been stitched together from the 1950s on.”

The large project will be broken into two phases. During the first, crews will expand the terminal 150 feet to the west. Then, TSA will move into the newly expanded area, thus freeing the existing terminal building for a complete remodel.

Currently, building codes for the multiple terminal building structures vary according to when and why they were constructed. In particular, the seismic codes vary dramatically. To remedy this situation, the airport will construct a new roof over the entire terminal facility to ensure that the new structure is seismically resilient. This will also facilitate demolition and subsequent reconstruction of a more open and flexible interior space. 

“The short story is that we’ll push security out to the west, construct a new roof and remodel the interior to create a better space for the airlines,” Granato summarizes. “The present terminal was designed when airline ticket counters were the most valuable real estate at the airport. That’s no longer the case.”

Enabling projects for the terminal rehab and expansion will begin in 2020 with utility work and the installation of some support columns. A ground source heat pump system will be used to heat and cool the expanded terminal. Importantly, the new system will consume less energy than the current one—even with the additional 185,569 square feet of terminal space.

Due to the size of the project, construction will be a joint venture between Hoffman Construction Company and Skanska USA. “Once we move TSA and travelers out to the new security checkpoint, we can begin to open up and rebuild the terminal space,” Granato relates. “It will be challenging, but we feel we are developing a good plan, and it is certainly achievable.”

Of course, all of this is easier said than done—especially while continuing to move 50,000 to 70,000 travelers through the terminal every day. Communication is key for all of the projects, Granato stresses. To that end, the airport frequently posts updates about the various projects to special media portals created for each key audience—employees, traveling public and tenants. 

“We are committed to letting everyone know what we are doing and why we are doing it,” Granato explains. “We are America’s best airport, and our intent is to remain America’s best airport. That’s the goal we’ve set for ourselves. We know how much people love this airport, and we take that very seriously.” 


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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