Airport ‘eyesore’ might have global future

Once it was to be the centerpiece of a new terminal, then it was supposed to be leveled and forgotten. Now the unfinished administration building at Grand Junction Regional Airport could be completed as part of an effort to establish a customs office in Grand Junction, then a foreign-trade zone.

And if all that comes to pass, it could be Grand Junction International Airport.

First, however, the unfinished building at 800 Eagle Drive, as it’s become known, has to be finished, at least to the point that the building is enclosed.

Once that happens, organizers of the effort to establish a foreign-trade zone could make the case that a customs house could be located in the building. That’s a necessary step, Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, told the airport board on Tuesday.

A customs office needs at least 2,500 square feet and direct access to a tarmac — the latter attribute being available only at the unfinished building, Schwenke said.

Once a customs office can be established, officials can pursue a foreign-trade zone, something that could be used by more than 20 businesses in Mesa County, Schwenke said.

The lack of a zone has already cost Mesa County two companies that officials were pursuing, Carol Skubic of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership told the authority.

The prospect of completing the building just east of the existing terminal was enough for airport board member Robin Brown, who said the opportunity was a “no-brainer.”

The unfinished building could go from being “an eyesore and a huge embarrassment to the community” to being “a huge piece of the economic-development pie going forward,” Brown said.

“I’m tired of looking at it,” board member Tim Pollard said. “It’s a giant skeleton out there.”

The board directed the staff to draft a request for proposals for how to deal with the building, which was to have been a combined administration building, firefighting facility and baggage-handling location before construction was shut down in the wake of a federal fraud investigation that ultimately yielded no arrests.

The proposal is to compare the costs of completing the exterior of the structure with the costs of tearing it down, which were recently estimated at $1 million.

The building originally was to cost $6 million to build and construction halted halfway through.

Previous estimates for completing the exterior have ranged from $1.5 million to $3 million.

Backers of a foreign-trade zone could complete the interior for a customs office, Schwenke said.


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