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Airport’s consolidated rental car facility enters design phase

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For years, officials at the San Diego County Airport Authority have been looking for a way to shift passenger access and processing to the north side of the airport.

A big part of that answer is the $264 million, 17-acre CONRAC, or a consolidated rental car facility.

Design of the facility is only in the beginning stages, but it’s expected to break ground in summer 2013 and is part of the Airport Authority’s list of major upgrades to the airport — a list that has been physically taking shape during the past year with substantial progress on other projects, such as the airport’s Green Build.

Just like the Green Build, which is adding many new gates, a dual level drop-off and pick-up roadway and a vast concessions-area expansion, the CONRAC was identified in the airport master plan’s environmental impact report, which was certified in May 2008.

It’s also included in the first phase of the Destination Lindbergh recommended development plan, a multi-agency plan developed by the Airport Authority, the San Diego Association of Governments and the Metropolitan Transit System, which considered the ultimate build-out of San Diego International Airport. Destination Lindbergh is the plan through which the Airport Authority sees itself accomplishing the passenger access shift it’s been seeking.

The CONRAC and a future intermodal transit center (ITC) — incorporating bus, trolley, rail and potential high-speed rail stops — are two components of the vision.

According to Bryan Enarson, vice president of development for the Airport Authority, a design team assembled in recent months is working to finalize the CONRAC portion of the vision by next summer.

“The design team is on board and they’ve begun the design work,” Enarson said. “By consolidating all the rental cars into one property, it allows us to, number one, get the rental car traffic off of Harbor Drive.”

According to the airport, rental car traffic represents 30-35 percent of all airport traffic on Harbor Drive. The second benefit expected of the CONRAC development, Enarson added, is that it will allow for a single busing system, as opposed to each rental car company needing its own rotation of buses. So it’s also a win environmentally, Enarson said, by reducing the number of buses and related trips.

The CONRAC design team, headed by Burlingame, Calif.-based Demattei Wong Architecture, will be working for much of the next year on developing a plan for the facility, which is planned to be built under a construction-manager-at-risk contract. Final designs are expected to be done by May or June 2013.

The process of selecting a construction management firm is under way. With a project in the thoughts of the airport as long as the CONRAC has been, and as critical to the master plan as it is, Enarson said choosing the construction manager at risk delivery method seemed the most appropriate.

“It allows us to have both the designer and construction manager at the table at the same time, so you don’t design something you can’t build,” Enarson said.

While what the CONRAC will look like is largely unknown other than its perimeter, the design team is expected to have an idea by around January of 2013. It is planned to be designed for a minimum of LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“But we’re very aware that, number one, you’re going to be able to see it from Pacific Highway and from the hillside up there in the Mission Hills area,” Enarson said. “You’ll also be able to see it across from the other side of the airport.”

The focus on aesthetics will follow the same guidelines seen in much of the recent airport development, he added.

To get ready for the CONRAC, the Airport Authority is working on necessary improvements on and around the future site of the facility, including utility and road work that will serve as connectors between the CONRAC, existing facilities and other planned development like the ITC, being developed by SANDAG.

In February, the Airport Authority awarded a 37-year lease to Landmark Aviation for the development and operation of a corporate and general aviation fixed-base operator facility at Lindbergh Field. The facility will serve all corporate and general aviation aircraft and provide services such as fueling, maintenance and aircraft parking.

Because of their proximity to where the CONRAC is planned, the fixed-base operator facility and other projects will have a connection to the CONRAC, and the Airport Authority is trying to kill multiple birds with one stone in site development and preparation.

“Those same utilities and roadways will have to support the new fixed-base operation that will be going and being built on the north side, as well as infrastructure to support future cargo development on the north side,” Enarson said.

A central receiving center is also under way on the north side of the airport, set to receive all the materials for the airport’s concession operations when complete. Set to open in October or November, that project’s infrastructure and roadways will also be critical to the CONRAC.

The utility and road work projects are nearing their groundbreaking, expected by the end of the year or shortly after. The CONRAC is expected to open in the summer of 2015.

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