Myrtle Beach International Airport growth can start

Oct. 2, 2009


Oct. 2--The Myrtle Beach Community Appearance Board approved the footprint for an expansion at the Myrtle Beach International Airport on Thursday afternoon.

The approval gives the green light for site work to begin on the $130 million expansion, including laying the foundation for the terminal expansion and clearing the path for the extension of Harrelson Boulevard past the airport and connecting to 22nd Avenue North. The airport is operated by the county, but because it is inside Myrtle Beach city limits, the appearance board has the final say on the expansion's construction and appearance.

"We're hopeful that in the next 60 to 90 days we'll actually have construction going on. The approval today didn't allow us to start vertical construction, but it allows us to do things like foundations, site improvements, road placements and things like that," said Rick Ott, senior executive vice president of M.B. Kahn Construction Co., which is building the expansion.

The board turned down a request to expand the airport terminal in April 2007 because members did not like the placement of the proposed expansion on the west side of the airport property closer to The Market Common area. The disapproval set the county back $18 million spent on architects and other planning, $9 million of which came from Federal Aviation Administration grants.

The current plan is to expand the existing terminal, adding five gates -- bringing the total to 12, and almost doubling the terminal's size. This time around, the county chose to approach the appearance board in steps instead of trying to present a completed package. Larry Bragg, chairman of the appearance board, said he expects the airport project will be before the board about a dozen more times before the project is complete.

"We'll probably meet out at the terminal for one of the future meetings to look at tiles and other things about how the building itself will look," he said. "There are still a lot of things that need to be decided about the terminal."

The airport authority needs to address several issues brought up during a May appearance board meeting, when members got their first real look at the airport plans. Appearance board members said they wanted to make sure there were safe pathways for pedestrians to get into the building, that the existing terminal and the expansion had continuity in appearance, and that the appearance of the airport was suitable to welcome people to Myrtle Beach.

Ott said the proposal presented Thursday asked for approval of the same number of parking spaces as the current terminal, although they would be redesigned. He told the board the county may come back with a plan for a parking garage if the parties involved can find the money to pay for one.

While many aspects of the expansion are still up for debate before they are approved, Bragg said Thursday's approval will enable some construction to get started. Ott told the board contractors could begin clearing and preparing the property by January.

Employees at M.B. Kahn, Horry County Airports, and city officials met at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for a celebration after the appearance board meeting.

Contact CLAUDIA LAUER at 626-0301.