The $162.5 million makeover of Charleston International Airport has begun, at least symbolically.

Airport officials broke ground Thursday on the first phase of the overhaul of the 27-year-old terminal, paving the way for two years of construction-related, cordoned-off areas in the building that saw 2.5 million passengers last year.

Charleston County Aviation Authority officials broke ground Thursday on the $162 million makeover of Charleston International Airport’s 27-year-old terminal. The first phase will include building a new rental car pavilion outside the baggage claim area. (Warren Wise/ 10/18/12

Work actually won’t begin until year’s end at the earliest on the first phase, a 6,140-square-foot addition to a new $4.3 million rental car pavilion outside the baggage claim area.

“This symbolizes the start of our construction,” said state Rep. Chip Limehouse, chairman of the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

Next up is an $18.2 million expansion of the airport apron or ramp. It likely will start in November to make way next year for adding six gates to the current 10.

Also included in the airport revamp will be a third baggage carousel, consolidated security checkpoint, relocated administrative offices, a central dome over the lobby and numerous cosmetic changes throughout the airport.

When completed in late 2014, the 324,000-square-foot terminal building will be about 25 percent bigger and passenger flow will drastically change.

After leaving the check-in stations, passengers will turn down a new corridor behind the stations and go to a central security checkpoint with multiple lines before proceeding to the airport’s two concourses.

The lobby will be divided by a glass wall, separating the secured and the unsecured areas. Arriving passengers will pass through a door in the glass wall before heading to baggage claim. Greeters will meet arriving passengers in the lobby on the unsecured side of the wall.

During the board meeting before the ground-breaking ceremony, board members indicated that the minimum price tag for the entire project is now up from an estimated $150 million to about $162.5 million, a number that still could change.

The board delayed the go-ahead authorization for the new rental car pavilion until November so architect Fentress Architects of Denver and the construction team led by Austin Commercial LP of Dallas and its local partner Hitt Contracting Inc. could reconcile differences in their projected costs.

The Fentress figure comes in at about $166 million, and the Austin-Hitt cost is about $182 million, according to Airports Director Sue Stevens.

The two need to bring one estimated cost back to the Aviation Authority before the airport board can begin to consider what cuts might need to be made to keep the project within budget, Stevens said.

“We want to get this thing moving quickly, but we want to make sure we come in on budget,” said Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey, who was acting as proxy on the board for his father, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who was unable to attend the meeting.

The expansion plan does not include the newly completed, $1.4 million parking lot at the airport.

The 428-space surface lot was added near the airport entrance on International Boulevard to allow for room in the future to double the size of the 1,200-space parking deck into the existing surface lot. Parking fees will not change.



Source: The Post and Courier

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or