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AVL breaks ground on $400M terminal

An excavator strikes the first blow in AVL's $400 million terminal project — demolishing one of the existing buildings.

Asheville Regional Airport, touting itself as a cornerstone of regional connectivity and economic vitality, embarked on the largest expansion in its 62-year history, a new $400 million two-story terminal that "signifies the promise of economic growth and prosperity for our community."

The groundbreaking ceremony for AVL Forward included airport stakeholders, community leaders, and local, regional, and national elected officials, who witnessed the end of an era and the beginning of the future when a corner of the 62-year old airport terminal was torn down. This historic occasion celebrated the visionary efforts and collaboration that have paved the way for the transformative AVL Forward project, highlighting the vision of past and current leaders. The expansive project is a result of a $400 million investment, supported by a combination of funding sources including federal and state grants, airport revenue bonds, and airport operating revenue.

“Our new airport terminal represents more than just a building; it signifies the promise of economic growth and prosperity for our community,” said Lew Bleiweis, President and CEO of the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority. “We are creating an environment that not only facilitates air travel but also elevates the overall airport experience, designed to leave lasting positive impressions on all who pass through our doors.”

Upon completion, the AVL Forward project will yield a remarkable airport terminal that stands 150 percent larger than the current airport. The airport will grow from seven gates to 12, with ample room for further expansion.

“It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago where as the chairman of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, you invited me and others over for a ribbon cutting for the new terminal," U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards said. "And I distinctly remember you telling us that it was your goal to serve more than a million passengers a year out of this airport. And what a pleasure it is to hear now that you’ve flown right past that" and reached nearly 2 million a year. “I believe that what's going to set this airport apart once we're able to reopen is not only the new facade, the new decor, the new amenities, but friendly southern faces behind the counters in the terminals, on the planes, that will really make this place distinctive.

The new design concept, inspired by the natural beauty of the western North Carolina mountains, will feature a spacious and bright grand lobby, state-of-the-art ticketing and baggage claim areas, an inviting concessions plaza, and thoughtfully designed gate areas to enhance passenger comfort and experience. Award-winning architectural firm Gresham Smith led an innovative design process resulting in the project's esthetic vision.

"You’ll see expansive spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, bright natural light and ceiling-to-floor designs influenced by waterfalls and rivers," Bleiweis said. "We are planning passenger amenities to support a welcoming gateway for all, such as multiple spaces for local art, a music stage, mother’s rooms, multiple restaurants, a business center and more. And I'm proud to say the aesthetics on the new Asheville terminal will be fully rooted in the beauty of Western North Carolina."

Construction of the new terminal will be managed by Hensel Phelps, an industry leader known for its commitment to excellence and innovation. Further enriching the project's management will be the expertise of Parsons, a firm with a specialty in construction management services.

“Asheville Regional Airport produces nearly $2½  billion in economic impact to our region each year, and this number will continue to grow as we continue to grow," Bleiweis said. "We are committed to making western North Carolina more accessible than ever before, and this pivotal moment in our airport’s history is a giant leap forward.”

Construction phases

Phase One: The existing north concourse will be demolished in August 2023, followed by an approximate two-year period of construction of a new north concourse, which will house seven gates and six boarding bridges (which include spacious gate hold rooms, restrooms and concessions areas). Additionally, the northern expansion of the ticket lobby, a temporary TSA checkpoint and south baggage claim expansion will be constructed. *Milestone moment: When construction is complete, the new north concourse will open for passenger and airline use.

Phase Two: The existing south concourse will be demolished, followed by an approximate 1.5 year period of construction of a new south concourse, second-level concessions plaza, the southern expansion of the ticket lobby, the northern expansion of baggage claim, construction of the new grand lobby and permanent TSA security check point. *Milestone moment: Upon completion of this phase, the airport will feel brand new, with twelve gates and boarding bridges and expansive space for all points in the passenger journey within the airport terminal.

Phase Three: Due to the significant phasing approach necessary, there will still be some “back of house” construction, demolition and clean up occurring for approximately another year.

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