The Wilmington International Airport is nearing its long-awaited expansion, with a design in the works for its first phase. It’s a project that airport officials say will increase economic opportunities for the region.
A nearly $2 million contract has been awarded to Talbert & Bright Inc., a Wilmington design firm, for the airport’s first phase of improvements, said Granseur Dick, an engineer and ILM’s director of planning and development. Construction on the project’s first phase is set to begin this fall, he said.
“We have a very aggressive schedule. We are looking at hopefully being done with design in the summer and looking to go out to bid at the end of summer,” Dick said.
The first phase includes expansion of the airport’s airline ticket office areas, offices behind the ticket counters and other renovations of the space. It also includes modernizing the baggage area, TSA areas and scanning equipment.
The airport expansion is a three-phase project aimed at new construction while providing upgrades to the existing terminal, originally built in 1989.
“Airports are a major economic engine to any community/region,” Airport Director Julie Wilsey said. “We help attract new businesses, connect the region to the global marketplace, boost tourism to the area attractions and play a factor in the decision to relocate to our area.”
Flight services at ILM will be expanding in 2018, increasing foot traffic through the airport, with two new nonstop routes to Chicago and Washington, D.C., through United Airlines – the airport’s third carrier – and American Airlines’ addition of Saturday nonstop flights to Dallas- Fort Worth. Both will begin in April.
“For the summer, ILM will have eight nonstop destinations, flights through seven hubs and access to six international gateways. It’s a strong lineup for leisure and business travel,” Wilsey said. “Expanding the ILM terminal will support additional growth of our third carrier, United, as well as encourage new flights with our incumbent carriers, American Airlines and Delta.”
Gate areas are nearing capacity for the holidays and during peak hours of the day, she said, adding that the summer will be a “good challenge for ILM and the airlines because Phase 1a is set for late fall.”
The project has direct economic impacts for the Wilmington area, she said. Construction will provide opportunities for local contractors and subcontractors. Additional space in the terminal will require additional employees at ILM as well.
“This will occur gradually as we complete each phase of construction and compare it to the regulations and needs of the organization,” Wilsey said.
While no timeline has been set for completion of all three phases of the project, a larger concession area is planned in the second phase, adding opportunities for new food, beverage and concession vendors in the terminal.
“We would love to have local artisans and food vendors in the airport to showcase the talent in our community,” Wilsey said.