CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A new multi-million dollar expansion project is now underway at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
The $156 million rental car facility is the latest building to be added as significant investment continues to expand capacity and improve amenities.
The design of the building will be the first of its kind in the state. The airport held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning to officially mark the beginning of construction.
The new consolidated rent-a-car facility will be five stories and is planned to handle the growing demand projected for the next 20 years, according to Tory Richardson, the president and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority.
“Really for us it boiled down to building its own entire facility, all rental cars under one roof,” Richardson said. “It will be completely connected to the terminal so a seamless journey for the passenger.”
Moving rental cars from the existing parking garage will free up additional covered parking spaces. The new rental car building will replace the east parking lot. The airport also has future plans to expand overall available parking spaces.
The building will help with sustainability by reducing the miles needed to get the cars in place for customer pick up and for most servicing.
“We’ll be alleviating 90% of that by having the facility consolidating into one location here, thus removing about 600,000 miles of roadway travel each year and over 500,000 pounds of carbon emissions,” Richardson said.
Kent County is backing the bonds for the project, which will be paid back by the airport.
“This is the kind of investment that we like to see in our airport. It demonstrates the commitment to making sure that those people that use this facility have the best experience possible,” said Stan Stek, the chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners.
Doug Small, the president and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids, said upgrading the capacity and efficiency of the airport benefits the local economy.
“A well-run airport with the amenities that people expect in other cities or cities twice our size … now are here and that’s gonna help us continue to attract more business to the community,” Small said.
The project will also ensure recreational travelers have better access to rental cars.
“The last study we did was 2021 and $900 million in economic impact that tourism brings to this community, that keeps small businesses in business, provides a great tax base,” Small said.
The construction phase is expected to be finished by the summer of 2025 and the building open to the public by the end of 2025.