The Elevate Program is the Cornerstone of Nearly $500 Million in Capital Expansion Projects, One of the Largest of Any Small Hub Airport in the U.S.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 27, 2022 –The Gerald R. Ford International Airport today raised a ceremonial beam to celebrate its $110 million expansion of Concourse A to accommodate passenger growth.
As air travel in West Michigan nears pre-pandemic levels, Ford International Airport gathered federal, state and regional business and community leaders to commemorate the project, which will create 125 new construction jobs and add 157,000 square feet of space to Michigan’s second largest airport. The expansion of Concourse A is part of the Elevate program, which has designated nearly $500 million in infrastructure investments to improve the guest experience while positioning the Airport for continued growth.
Today’s celebration comes more than two years after the Elevate program was first announced. The expansion will:
- More than double the current capacity of Concourse A by adding eight new gates for a total of 15.
- Widen the 66-foot concourse to 120 feet and lengthen it by 510 feet for a total of more than 900 feet.
- Increase the number and variety of food and beverage options by introducing a marché, or market-style open concept area featuring regionally inspired cuisine, along with other vendor spaces.
- Add an executive lounge on an elevated level overlooking Concourse A that will cater to the needs of business travelers, putting Ford International on a par with larger airports, including Chicago, Boston and Atlanta.
- Grow the number of retail operations.
- Provide a greater variety of seating options to accommodate guest needs, including tables, pods and soft seating options offered by West Michigan manufacturers.
- Take advantage of natural lighting and the views to create a visually pleasing and energy-efficient space.
- Reflect the look, feel and culture of West Michigan as the first thing guests see when they come into town and the last thing they’ll remember when they leave.
“Today has been a long time coming, and we could not be happier to gather today to celebrate this significant investment in the future of travel in West Michigan,” said Airport Authority Board Chair Dan Koorndyk. “Prior to the pandemic, Ford International Airport enjoyed double-digit passenger growth for nearly two years, necessitating we undertake this monumental transformation of what will become our signature concourse.
“As the pandemic continues to subside, our travel numbers continue to increase, putting our recovery ahead of our initial projections. Now is the time to begin the work that will position us to resume our anticipated growth trajectory for the next 20 years – and ensure we can deliver a world-class experience as West Michigan’s gateway to the world.”
Construction on Concourse A is expected to take 24 months, with the first phase scheduled to open in spring 2023 and be completed by the end of that year. Concourse A will remain open during construction. The Christman Company is serving as general contractor for Concourse A while Mead & Hunt is the design project manager and HKS is the architect of record. Subcontracts are already in place with more than 30 West Michigan subcontractors who will bring their expertise and local suppliers to the project.
The expansion of Concourse A received the full support of Ford International Airport’s airline partners, including legacy carriers American Airlines, Inc., Delta Air Lines, Inc. and United Airlines, Inc., low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines and ultra-low cost carriers Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines. Upon completion, Concourse A will be home to the legacy airlines while low-cost and ultra-low cost carriers will operate out of concourse B.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer and have been instrumental in helping Ford International Airport secure federal funds needed to launch the expansion.
“GRR is often the first and last thing people see when they visit West Michigan” explained Meijer, who gave remarks via video during today’s beam raising. “The employees in management here have fully embraced their role as ambassadors for our community. While West Michigan continues to experience tremendous growth, with this new expansion at GRR it will be able to better meet the demands of a growing population.”
As it prepared to design the expansion, HKS led a visioning session with Airport stakeholders to ensure the principal concepts of community and the physical attributes of West Michigan were brought into the space. Architect Jorge Barrero likened the journey of walking the length of the new concourse to exploring West Michigan and its many offerings.
“We wanted the new space to mimic the experience of arriving in West Michigan, which is reflected in the colors and textures chosen for the expansion,” Barrero explained. “From the blue of Lake Michigan and natural tans of the sand dunes to the greys and purples of the urban core to the greens of the forests and farmland in between, your walk from the ticketing counter to your gate parallels the beautiful geography of West Michigan.
“Your travel experience will start when you arrive at Ford International Airport, which wants to be part of your journey – not simply a building.”
Plans for additional infrastructure improvements under the Elevate program are also underway, including:
- The addition of a federal inspection station, or FIS, which will enable the Airport to offer nonstop international commercial passenger flights. This project was announced in August 2019, and the first phase – the addition of a new baggage claim area, restrooms and operations infrastructure – has been completed. These enhancements are being used for domestic flights until the full FIS project is complete.
- The relocation of the current air traffic control tower, or ATCT, to make way for diverse terminal-area developments such as additional tenant hangars and more parking. The Airport selected a new site, which was reviewed and approved virtually by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2021 – the first-ever such virtual sighting of an ATCT.
- A proposed consolidated rental car facility with an enclosed walkway from the terminal that will offer additional transportation accommodations to travelers visiting West Michigan.
- The proposed addition of parking infrastructure to accommodate additional guest traffic.
- A proposed upgrade to the Airport’s checked baggage inspection system, which will enhance safety while streamlining the process for staff and guests.
“We are gratified to find support at all levels – local, state and national – for our plans to enhance the infrastructure at Ford International Airport so we can better meet the needs of our business and leisure guests today – and tomorrow,” said Tory Richardson, president and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. “We pride ourselves on our ability to connect West Michigan to the world – and vice versa. The investment being made today to expand Concourse A marks another evolutionary step in our history.
“We are grateful for the continued confidence and commitment of our elected officials, our team, our airline partners, our tenants and vendors and all who choose to Fly Ford.”
Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Stan Stek, who spoke at today’s event, stressed the importance of having quality infrastructure in the county.
“The Ford International Airport is often the first impression travelers have of our community – and the last they have while leaving,” Stek said. “We must continue to invest to have a first-class Airport that delivers a world-class experience for business and leisure guests alike.”
The Ford International Airport is offering community members an opportunity to sign a 14-foot steel beam that will become a permanent piece of the newly expanded concourse. The beam will be placed in the Amway Grand Hall near the screening checkpoint from May 2-9 for guests to sign their name.
No local taxpayer dollars will be used to finance any of the projects included in the Elevate program, which will be paid for with a combination of federal and state grants, municipal bonds issued by the Airport and user fees.