Memphis International Airport’s latest building project could free up strategic real estate inside the airfield fence for growth by FedEx or another user.
The Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority is spending $1.4 million to build administrative offices in a former hotel space on the terminal mezzanine.
The work by Chris Woods Construction will allow the airport to bring all administrative employees under one roof, but it also will create a prime leasing opportunity: the satellite administration building at 3505 Tchulahoma.
Along with the E.W. “Ned” Cook Airfield Maintenance Facility at 3318 Winchester, the airport could have two adjoining buildings to offer tenants that need secured space on the airfield. The late Cook was an airport champion and former board chairman.
The administration was close to pulling the trigger in January on hiring an architecture firm to design a new airfield maintenance facility closer to the airport terminal. The item was postponed indefinitely because the airport was still in negotiations with an unnamed tenant that wanted the maintenance site.
The buildings date back some 30 years and are sandwiched between a Tennessee College of Applied Technology aircraft mechanic training facility and FedEx Express hangars.
The airport’s building program has enabled significant growth of the FedEx Express world hub in the past dozen years by freeing up land adjoining FedEx.
In 2004, the airport engineered a land swap in which FedEx gained access to the former Tennessee Air National Guard base on Democrat and a new military base was built at Swinnea and Shelby Drive. FedEx filled in the old base with a cold-storage warehouse, new employee screening center and other facilities.
More recently, the airport moved most rental car operations into a ground transportation center adjoining the terminal and leased some of the former rental car row to FedEx for uses including tractor-trailer parking.
The airport’s 2015-2020 strategic plan calls for moving administration and airfield maintenance buildings during 2015-2016.
Airport officials say the planned relocations are driven by practical considerations: having administration employees in one building and moving airfield maintenance crews to a more central place on the airfield.
“My goal has been to gain efficiencies and effectiveness for the future of the organization,” airport president Scott Brockman said.
Brockman said officials were still discussing whether current maintenance and administration facilities would be bundled together or leased to separate tenants.
Brockman’s predecessor, Larry Cox, whose airport tenure predated the facilities, said it was always anticipated that FedEx might need the space some day.
“When we built it initially we knew if FedEx continued to grow they would come after that. The airport always had it in the back of their mind FedEx might eventually need it,” Cox said.
The old Skyport Inn on the terminal mezzanine bit the dust with a demolition starting last fall. The 44-room hotel opened in 1969 and closed in 2004. Owners said it had been losing money since terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Chris Woods Construction’s $1,423,000 bid to build office space beat out a $1,511,822 bid by A&B Construction Co.
Brockman said the offices are expected to be ready by spring or early summer of 2017. About 75 employees, about a third of the staff, would relocate from the building on Tchulahoma. Remaining administrative staff is already in mezzanine-level offices.
“That facility (on Tchulahoma) is prime build-out rental space, so we will look at options to lease it,’’ Brockman said. “We will offer it obviously to our existing tenants first, to see if there’s a need for it. Because it’s a secured facility, it’s really not a widely known resource.”
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