LAX is undergoing a major renovation and modernization, and when it’s all finished, you won’t even recognize it. You might be tempted to call it a facelift, given the fact that we’re in LA, but I would caution you not to; this is no cosmetic procedure. We are talking about a $4.1 billion construction project, many years in the making, and none of it financed with City money. I got to see behind the scenes recently at the invitation of LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
Bradley West Terminal is First
The Bradley Terminal, where International passengers arrive and depart, is being rebuilt from the ground up. Bradley West, as it is called, has been under construction for about 1 year, and is slated to be finished in early 2013. It’s a huge structure. Try to imagine laying City Hall and the Library Tower on their side, end to end, and squeezing Staples Center in between. That’s the length of the new Bradley West. It’s like a horizontal skyscraper.
Iconic Design Key in Renovation
When working on the design with the architects, Airport officials and Mayor Villaraigosa chose Environment as the concept they wanted to emphasize, and as a result, Bradley West has a design resonant of waves crashing in from the Pacific Ocean. It’s sure to become one of LA’s iconic buildings, and yet its design absolutely fits its context.
It was also important to officials that Bradley West help showcase our City. Currently, arriving International passengers deplane and head straight underground to immigration and customs, not even getting so much as a glimpse of LA until they emerge from Baggage Claim.
The New Bradley West terminal is practically all glass, so on a clear day, visitors will be able to see downtown and the Hollywood sign – and even if there happens to be some smog, the view of the terminal itself will still be impressive and welcoming.
The departures terminal of Bradley West will also be something to behold. State of the Art will probably just begin to describe the 110-foot ceilings, 20-ft high programmable video displays, food court and vending area, high-end dining options and first-class lounges. Whether it encourages people to travel abroad more is yet to be determined, but I suspect that, at the very least, they’ll enjoy it more when they do.
LA City taxpayers may not have wanted to pay the bills for this massive modernization project, much less could the City have afforded it outright. So the money is coming from the airlines themselves, which does mean that eventually, the traveling public will see the costs passed on to them. But there will also be revenue generators within the airport itself, with possible fees for wifi access, enhanced revenue from high-end dining facilities and new advertising opportunities for brands.
Renovation and Modernization Taking Place All Over LAX
You might think the rest of the airport would be feeling left out of all the fun, but don’t worry, there are modernizations going on all over. All the elevators in the airport are being replaced, to the tune of $250 million, and they’ve actually built a $500 million central utility plant for the airport, keeping eco concerns in mind.
Each airline is also making improvements to their own terminals. In terminal 5, Delta, TSA and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) are sharing the cost of a $250 million upgrade, including a new in-line baggage screening system, new elevators and escalators, remodeled boarding gates and new passenger security screening checkpoints that will shorten wait times. If that wasn’t great enough news, in the Spring of 2012, Lemonade and Skewers by Morimoto will both open restaurants in Terminal 5.
A Mayor’s Legacy
Antonio Villaraigosa has only a few dozen more months left in office and when he began his first term, he set out to create a legacy in Los Angeles. Whether he has aspirations for higher office are unclear, but it is certain he wanted to leave his mark on LA. When his attempt to take over the LAUSD failed to pass constitutional muster, he needed another avenue to try. Always a staunch environmentalist, Mayor Villaraigosa has turned his attention to the DWP and moving LA toward a cleaner energy landscape. With the modernization of LAX, however, he’ll have a monument for all to see.
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of MomsLA, and also blogs about Tween Media at SarahAuerswald.com. She was taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bradley West terminal construction project at the invitation of City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.