Master Plan for Downtown Mobile Airport Includes New $160 Million Terminal

Aug. 4, 2020

A new $160 million, eight-gate terminal will highlight the details included within a master plan for the Mobile Downtown Airport. The details will be released later today.

The terminal would be located within the Brookley Aeroplex south of downtown Mobile and would be in a different location than the current $8 million terminal that, until this past spring, was hosting flights by Frontier Airlines to cities like Chicago and Denver. The Aeroplex is the Mobile region’s largest industrial and transportation business park anchored by Airbus’ largest North American manufacturing plant.

“The footprint is smaller than the existing terminal (at Mobile Regional Airport) and it’s designed to be smaller and more efficient with the ability to expand,” said Chris Curry, president of the Mobile Airport Authority. “There is a possibility that as the future of air transportation growths, that we have a chance to expand it further. However, with the initial build – we will only build as much as will be needed.”

The new terminal and its exact location will be part of Curry’s presentation that will take place during a webinar from 6 p.m. 7:30 p.m. To access the webinar and to ask questions, visit A media presentation will take place from 5:15 to 6 p.m. at the Downtown Airport.

Why the relocation?

The roll out of the master plan is part of a process that began in 2018, with a feasibility study that revealed it was critical for the Mobile Airport Authority to move commercial air passenger service from Mobile Regional Airport in west Mobile to the Downtown airport near Interstate 10.

The overall plan is to relocate commercial air service closer to where people in coastal Alabama live, and to provide more flights for Mobile residents. Mobile Regional Airport is located

on the western edges of the city and, while it has handled commercial flights since 1986, has long suffered a reputation for offering few direct flights and costly fares compared to nearby airports in Gulfport, Miss. and Pensacola, Fla.

Mobile Regional is also far removed from the interstate highways. Trips to downtown can be a half-hour or longer depending on traffic along congested routes such as Airport Boulevard.

Brookley, by comparison, is a mere four miles from downtown Mobile and is in closer proximity to the Eastern Shore area of Daphne, Spanish Fort and Fairhope – among the fastest-growing areas in Alabama.

The master plan, which cost around $1.6 million, was conducted by consulting experts Leigh Fisher, and was financed largely through funds authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The process also included multiple public meetings and the formation of a citizens advisory committee to provide feedback about concerns over issues like noise and increases in commercial activity.

“Throughout this process, we have engaged our major stakeholders and the citizens in the community throughout our different advisory committees,” Curry said. “We have a good idea how the public will receive the plan based on the recommendations that we received from citizens in and throughout the community.”

Curry added, “It will give the public a good idea as to where we are headed and how much was involved in assembling this plan by everyone. The stakeholders, elected officials and community were all involved in this plan.”

Housing concerns

At least one lawmaker has concerns. State Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, said she is worried about the potential displacement of public housing residents who could be affected by the airport project. She is also concerned about homeowners in the region, who could see their property values affected by an expected growth in commercial activity through the relocation of commercial air service.

“This is very concerning to me,” said Drummond. “We want to see growth happen and the airport moved, but … we have to do right by the folks who own homes by the airport and those who rent and live in public housing.”

Drummond has sponsored legislation in Montgomery in recent years that would require a property owner receive fair market value – instead of appraised value – for their property if it’s seized by a governing body. Curry has long denied that eminent domain was never part of the airport discussions.

Brookley, which is almost entirely industrial, does have some residential streets within the complex. But most of the residential properties are on the opposite side of I-10.

Drummond said she remains concerned over homeowners who are displaced because of a growth of commercial activity near the airport, and having inadequate compensation to purchase a similar home elsewhere in the city.

“My concern is John E. Resident, who lives near that airport, (developers) will come in and do what needs to be done to bring in commercial development and that person cannot take the appraised 2020 value of that house and move somewhere else,” said Drummond. “I am concerned we will turn homeowners into renters.”

Curry said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will also play a role in determining where the airport will be built, based on whether future public housing development will replace existing housing within the area.

Michael Pierce, executive director with the Mobile Housing Board, said that three public housing projects – R.V. Taylor Plaza, Boykin Tower and Thomas James Place – are all slated for a demolition disposition scheduled in October. He said that HUD will review the applications, and that it could take “a minimum 18 months” and “no more than 24 months” to determine the fate of the properties.

Of the three, Boykin Tower is already vacated. Pierce said that “a few hundred” residents live at R.V. Taylor and Thomas James Place. All three venues are west of Brookley and I-10 either on or near Michigan Avenue.

The Mobile Housing Authority will have five years to complete relocations and the demolition project. Pierce said that the entire costs of the demolition project will be around $18 million to $20 million and would be financed largely with HUD money.

But Pierce said the Housing Authority’s activity is “separate” from the Downtown Airport project. He said that once the properties are demolished and cleared, they will be sold through a public bidding process to the highest bidder.

“One is not dependent on the other,” said Pierce. “We don’t know what will happen with the acreage once it’s completely done.”

Drummond, though, said she is concerned about the displaced public housing residents. She and Pierce acknowledge that public and affordable housing stock in Mobile is limited, presenting a challenge for public officials.

“Where will those people go?” Drummond said.

Mobile City Councilman C.J. Small, who represents the neighborhoods near Brookley, said the Housing Board “has committed that affordable housing will remain” within the vicinity and that “HUD will have to give them permission to sale any land.”

Said Small, “I’m hoping that all of the residents will return to a revitalized community.”

Small said that Curry and the Airport Authority have assured him that “precautions are being taken to ensure that the community is not adversely impacted by noise” due to the airport’s growth.

“My understanding is the placement of any new runways and new plane technology will limit noise pollution to local residents,” Small said.

Economic return

Curry, meanwhile, said that new terminal – if it comes to fruition – would be financed largely through the FAA. He said the FAA’s commitment of financing the lion’s share of the master plan indicates to him interest in having the federal government invest heavily into the Mobile terminal.

He is also touting an economic impact study on Alabama airports released last month that showed the Mobile Airport Authority’s impact on the state at around $1.4 billion. The impact in Mobile was only slightly behind the impact at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, which was estimated at $1.6 billion. Huntsville International Airport came in at No. 1, at $1.8 billion. The report was prepared for The Aviation Council of Alabama by M. Kevian Deravi at Economic Research Services Inc.

Curry said the new airport terminal at Brookley is cheaper compared to a $201 million modernization project at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth. That project was a two-phased development financed largely through borrowing and grants, but also $10.8 million from the Birmingham Airport Authority.

“This is a building that is from the ground up versus a renovation,” said Curry.

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