First phase of plan to be pursued early next year
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This image included in a conceptual design for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport depicts the view within the terminal looking east after passing through security.
This image included in a conceptual design for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport depicts the view within the terminal looking east after passing through security.

Humble, rustic and true to the character of the Gunnison Valley is how architects describe their conceptual plan for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport terminal. And rather than “chasing square footage,” the proposal would utilize existing space with some expansion on the terminal’s south side.

The new concept plan also could include covered parking to accommodate a large-scale solar project being pursued by the City of Gunnison, Gunnison County and Western Colorado University.

Architects Adam Ambro and Casey Johnson of the Denver-based firm Gensler presented the conceptual plan to Gunnison County Commissioners Tuesday. Gensler was hired following a request for proposals mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The firm picks up where Boulder-based consultants Mead & Hunt left off with their area study.

On the first level of the terminal, the latest plan calls for a new entrance and renovation of the front facade, featuring broad walls and new vegetation. Once inside the terminal the layout would be changed to allow for “intuitive wayfinding,” in which travelers can easily find their way rather than relying on signs.

The south side of the terminal would be expanded to allow for a new security area, while a new staircase to the second level would be centered, giving visitors a clear view of the space above. Passenger “hold rooms” would be included on both levels.

On the second level, a portion of the roof would be raised to allow for larger windows that improve views and allow for more natural light to enter the building.

“We may not have the (same) sized spaces in the original plan, but we’ve introduced efficiency,” said Ambro. “It’s more bang for the buck instead of chasing more square footage to make it better.”

Gensler also was asked to find an 82,000-square-foot area which could accommodate a potential 600-kilowatt solar system being pursued by the city, county and Western. The architects devoted 80,000 square feet to covered parking on which the solar array could be mounted.

“It makes sense,” said Sustainable Facilities Director John Cattles. “We can’t plow snow between cars currently, and this would make a much better arrival experience for people.”

Commissioners have long identified a need to renovate the terminal, constructed in the 1970s, to address security updates and the building’s “first impression” on visitors. They also identified a need to accommodate growing traffic at the airport.

Cattles noted much of the cost in renovating the airport comes from addressing out-of-date systems caused by incremental FAA funding. He said because of piecemeal improvements in recent decades, mechanical systems are not cohesive, and much of the equipment is at the end of its life.

Cattles said the $17 million project is phased to be compatible with available funding.

The Gunnison airport is considered a primary non-hub airport in that it has at least 10,000 enplanements annually. That classification qualifies the airport to receive $1 million from the FAA each year in what are known as “entitlement funds” — revenue guaranteed based on the level of service provided. The money can be spent on projects identified in the airport’s approved master plan.

However, the FAA makes available “discretionary funds” which can pay for projects in excess of entitlement revenue. The $9 million runway improvement project at the airport in summer 2017 was funded through both entitlement and discretionary money.

Airport Manager Rick Lamport said the airport has $2 million in discretionary funds which must be utilized by Sept. 30 of next year. Additionally, Cattles has budgeted the airport’s capital improvements over the course of the last several years, bringing current available funds to nearly $6 million.

However Cattles said he will attempt to use existing funding to leverage additional dollars.

“We’re chasing every grant we can possibly consider,” Cattles said.

Cattles said a schematic design will be produced by Feb. 14, 2020, at which time a construction manager will be sought.

Both the construction manager and Gensler will be contracted, and the scope of the first phase will be defined according to funding. Cattles said phase one likely will include addressing security and mechanical systems.

“We can take off bite-sized chunks as revenue is available,” Cattles said. “This plan really represents an actual project we’re starting to focus in on.”


(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at chris.