Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Regional Branding and Airport Aesthetics

A couple of demolition supporters cite the business value of having a sparkling airport ... or whatever they mean by wanting a new terminal for local business. I have several responses.

For one, this sounds in part like a case of airport envy. I'm not sure what Charlotte's airport has to do with us. I know that Boston's airport is very mundane, yet Boston booms.

If it's aesthetics people want, I encourage them to look at the design plans, linked in a posting below, and to form their own opinions. (I should add that design plans can change dramatically during big projects like this.) In my personal aesthetic opinion, not only are the disjointed massive curved roofs going to be very expensive. They also look dated already today. And to me, they scream inferiority complex -- "Look at what our region did to get your attention!"

I'm all for revitalizing the interior design of Terminal C. And I think that if we had an Airport Authority with multiple interior designers, instead of multiple construction company magnates, we'd be looking at a sweeping (and much less expensive) overhaul of the Terminal's interior instead of current plans. That is one positive counter-proposal that I offer.

Functionality and convenience are important. Another 4-5 years of airport construction, for an unnecessary demolition and a premature expansion, will increase dysfunctionality.

In fact, the main business complaint that I have heard about the airport involves recruiting professionals to move to the Triangle, already one of the best draws in America. I've heard a lot more complaints about all those orange barrels and the like, than about the faded posters in Terminal C.

As I've already mentioned below, local business is going to bear the burden of increased construction costs through increased strain on regional construction capacity.

And if the Airport Authority (an overlapping subset of Raleigh & Durham, Wake & Durham) comes up with $350 million, why not put that money toward existing budgets, and save local taxpayers some money? Or lower the airport costs to local businesses by lowering various user fees? Now that's a business plan.

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