Tear Down LaGuardia? Skidmore Owings & Merrill Working on New Designs

laguardia joe holmes flickr Tear Down LaGuardia? Skidmore Owings & Merrill Working on New DesignsPort Authority executive director Chris Ward earned a fair amount of ink last week when he made a comment that LaGuardia airport “should fundamentally be torn down and rebuilt.” (He went on to note that there is no money to do that, and the most the agency can do now is plan.)

It turns out that just three months ago, the agency’s board approved a contract with architecture firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill to delve into a planning effort on the airport, creating conceptual designs for an entirely new main terminal—the Central Terminal Building—among other plans at the airport. A person familiar with the effort said the planning may also include renovation designs.

According to board materials, SOM, which designed Terminal 4 at JFK, has a $20.9 million three-contract for the project, much of it devoted to conceptual designs.

Just how much would it take to rebuild LaGuardia?

The Port Authority seemed to be exploring this in a fair amount of depth before the economy collapsed and it became clear how much more it would have to devote to the World Trade Center. According to a request for proposals the agency issued last year, the project would cost $3 billion to $4 billion, completed, at the earliest, by 2020.

From background in the RFP, which says that “Phase I” planning has occurred:

Phase I planning for the Project has been completed and a peer review of the planning concepts was held in November 2008. The recommended concepts all involve the demolition and replacement of the existing CTB along with the construction of new garages, roadways and other ancillary facilities. In addition, the new terminal will be designed to accommodate 17.5 million annual air passengers representing an increase in passenger capacity of 6.5 million annual air passengers. The construction cost of the overall program will be between $3 billion and $4 billion and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2020.

Prior to the economic collapse, the Port Authority had $1 billion in its 10-year capital plan for the “modernization” of LaGuardia. But with agency revenues (tolls, airport fees, etc.) down and expenses at the World Trade Center up, Port Authority officials said that money has been removed. 

ebrown@observer.com