GNV airport juggles construction projects, grants

Gainesville airport looks to complete $75 million in capital improvement projects over the next five years
Gainesville airport looks to complete $75 million in capital improvement projects over the next five years
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) looks to start a handful of construction and renovation projects in the coming months as it progresses through its $75 million, 5-year capital improvement program.

The projects range from constructing a four-story parking garage to renovating its food service and strengthening the airport apron to accommodate larger aircraft. 

Allan Penksa, CEO of the airport, said state and federal grants will cover costs for most of the projects—and possibly all of them—but rising construction costs continue hampering budgets. 

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GNV submitted a pre-application for a grant last year from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for improvements to its general aviation apron. The bidding came within estimates, and the airport hopes to receive the funds in the coming fiscal year. 

Another airfield project will change the geometry for its taxiways and strengthen some areas of it. Penksa said the airport opened the project to bidding and only received one unreasonable bid. He said the airport repackaged the project specifications to make it easier on developers and bidding should reopen in the coming weeks. Both of those projects will cost around $16-20 million. 

Rendering on Tailwind concessions
Courtesy of GNV Airport A rendering of the Tailwind concessions.

The airport will also open up bidding for a new baggage handling system and airline ticket office expansion project currently under design. 

“We’re pretty constrained on space and in order to better accommodate additional airlines at some point, we need to look at providing more airline ticket office space available and to make sure that the airlines have good access to the outbound baggage system,” Penksa said.

The airport also hopes to start construction on a multimodal parking facility that will house passenger vehicles, a bus stop and taxi pickup area. The facility will add 418 parking spaces to the airport’s roughly 950 current spots. 

Penksa said the project has been on the airport’s agenda for a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the airport to wait due to uncertain funding. But passenger traffic numbers have rebounded in 2022. 

Enplaned and Deplaned Total Passengers (Commercial and Charter):

  • January
    • 2019: 40,150
    • 2022: 34,236
  • February
    • 2019: 39,951
    • 2022: 37,785
  • March
    • 2019: 49,848
    • 2022: 46,402
  • April 
    • 2019: 47,040
    • 2022: 50,539
  • May 
    • 2019: 49,237
    • 2022: 48,296

The airport ran into parking problems in April and May of this year and were forced to use grass areas. Penksa said that could continue once numbers ramp back up in September.  

The estimated cost for the project tops $11 million. 

“We know that it’s gone up since that estimate,” Penksa said. “What we don’t know really is how much. But it may surprise us.”

He said the airport wants to move quickly and take no chances in losing state funds set aside for the parking facility. 

Gainesville airport's new multimodal parking facility will add 418 spaces
Photo by Seth Johnson Gainesville Airport’s new multimodal parking facility will add 418 spaces.

Last week, GNV received an FAA grant for $1.67 million that will fund part of the project. Those funds will finance covered walkways to the terminal, a restroom and the bus/taxi area. 

While the airport prefers a cast-in-place garage, the bidding guidelines will provide options for prefabricated garages and perhaps even a reduced story option. Penska said the airport wants to build for the future and not cut itself short.

“The bidding climate is so uncertain right now, we need to have enough options to make sure we go forward with this,” Penksa said. 

Also in the realm of parking, GNV will open bidding for a new self-pay parking system. The current system is approaching the end of its term and the system will need something new for the parking garage. 

Tailwind Concessions plans to build out one stand and renovate its other two within the terminal. The vendor, with locations from Alaska to Alabama, has submitted the projects and Penksa said the airport awaits the City of Gainesville’s approval. 

Depending on when the approval comes, Penksa said the projects will probably finish by the end of 2022. 

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