Airport mulls North Gate reconstruction ideas

The Juneau International Airport North Gate reconstruction has two options for the future. Now it is time to decide which direction the airport will go.

Airport officials discussed the two options for the North Gate — the oldest portion of the airport built in 1948— during a public meeting at the airport Tuesday. Architect Catherine Fritz, Principal Architect of McCool, Carlson and Green in Anchorage, gave a presentation that highlighted the two options.

The first plan, estimated to cost approximately $33 million, would be done in two phases. The second option is a one-phase “bare bones” plan, according to Fritz, and would cost approximately $16 million. The airport has been working on the latest designs since March.

“We are trying to think of ways we can get the most bang for our buck with these plans,” Fritz said.

The first phase of the first option would cost between an estimated $16-17.5 million. It would involve having an open leased tenant area with a separate freight loading area north of the leased lots. That option would give airlines in the North Gate a private loading zone out of the way of where the current passenger loading area is located. Harris Air, Alaska Seaplanes and Island Air Express could either decide to stay in their current locations or privately lease this land for their own use. Representatives from Island Air Express and Alaska Seaplanes presented ideas of what they could do with the space.

Scott Currier, co-owner of Island Air Express, offered the idea of a “big box” building that would allow space for one large terminal for the airlines or several small terminals. The building would cost approximately $5 million that would hold Harris Air, Alaska Seaplanes and Island Air Express. That cost would not include the ticket counter and additional carrier facilities. Funding for the building is still in question.

Kent Craford, co-owner and President of Alaska Seaplanes, said he was approached by the airport last year about building his own facility is the lot. He said Alaska Seaplanes is considering the idea, but again, it is too soon to take a definite stance. Craford said their proposal for a building would involve an actual foyer or entryway as part of a joint opening for all three airlines. The building would also connect directly to the main terminal.

“We are a long way away from (making that decision),” Craford said. “We are in the second inning of planning.”

Tony Yorbo, of Jensen Yorba Lott, Inc. an architect company in Juneau, is working with Alaska Seaplanes on the potential building and said the cost of the building would depend on what the airport plans end up being. He did not give an estimated cost.

The first phase of the first option would be funded by what the airport currently has already accumulated financially. Fritz said the airport has secured bond money for $6.9 million and airport improvement funds from the Federal Aviation Administration in the amount of additional $8 million. The second phase of option two currently does not have any funding. If, and when, funding is accumulated, the second phase would involve having a space that would have the option of airport expansion or leasing to a private entity.

The second option presented involves leaving freight loading in the same area as the current passenger loading area and leaving the bare minimum requirements for the main terminal including police, FAA and airport administration.

Airport Manager Patty Wahto said the airport wants to move forward, and the idea of working together with Harris Air, Alaska Seaplanes and Island Air Express on the potential North Gate reconstruction is a step in the right direction.

“Having a few more options brought in means the airport has a lot to chew on right now and take it all in,” Wahto said. “‘What can we afford?’ That is really what it is going to come down to. We don’t want to lose out on the value of the dollar. The talk of working with the tenants (Harris Air, Alaska Seaplanes and Island Air Express) I think that is a first huge step. If we can somehow come together on that it is a win-win for everybody.”