Developer Eyes Sikorsky Hangars

STRATFORD -- A developer wants to renovate a deteriorating section of Sikorsky Memorial Airport if granted a long-term lease to the property.

Westport-based developer Larry Adler says he will invest $2.5 million to revitalize the Bridgeport-owned airport's two oldest hangars and former terminal building, and update the Windsock Restaurant.

In return, Adler has asked the Airport Commission to grant him a 50-year lease on those properties.

Under the plan reviewed this week by the Airport Commission, the airport would receive 2 percent of the proceeds from businesses at the property along with 5 cents per gallon from aircraft fuel sold there.

"I'd like to see this property fixed up and thriving," Adler said Wednesday.

Adler, the principal in Adler Realty, which has developed restaurants and other properties in the Bronx, N.Y., did not attend the panel's Tuesday meeting, where his proposal was presented by his contractor, Stephen J. Cusick of Stratford, and Morgan Kaolian, a former manager of the airport.

"We're looking to restore what's there, bring it back to life again," Cusick said.

"It's a realistic plan," said Bridgeport City Clerk Fleeta Hudson, a commission member, following the presentation. "It's the best thing I've seen for the airport during the 15 years I've been on the commission."

Bridgeport Mayor John M. Fabrizi, who chairs the commission, said Adler, Cusick and Kaolian should schedule a meeting with Airport Manager John Ricci and one of the city attorneys to prepare details of a proposed lease.

Ricci said the developer should present a timetable for the renovation work, as well as potential income from prospective businesses on a yearly basis.

Kaolian, who has been campaigning to save the airport's historic first and second oldest hangars, dating to the early days of flight in the 1920s, had identified Adler as a potential developer for the job.

Ricci shut down the second hangar Sept. 1 and ordered Kaolian to remove his airplane because of the structure's deteriorating roof. The hangar deteriorated over the years because of the airport's tight budget for maintenance, he said.

The airport's first hangar, in better condition, remains in use. But the former terminal, once used by American Airlines, has been unused for six years and is in bad shape because of its failing roof, Kaolian said.

Kaolian noted the airport was once frequented by legendary aviators like Charles A. Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, and added it would be a shame if its historic facilities were not restored.

If the hangars are restored, he said, they will be in demand because of a shortage space for aircraft in the region.

He also said the Windsock Restaurant could be upgraded to a "pilot's inn," which he described as a tourist destination for fliers.

The plan would also generate new revenue for the airport and provide new jobs in sales, service and flight training, he said. The renovated site could also host aviation shows.

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