Paul Hoback Jr. says it is important to ensure that our region’s unique culture feeds into his latest project.
“This is, I believe, the only place in the world that people actually let you in when you go from three alleys to two. We have cookie tables at weddings – it’s the friendliest place I’ve seen in the world. and we want to make sure we reflect this “, he explained.
The project Hoback is working on is the $ 1.39 billion terminal modernization program underway at Pittsburgh International Airport.
By the time the entire construction of the 700,000 square foot facility is completed in early 2025, the landside and airside configuration familiar since the facility opened in 1992 will be replaced by a new terminal area that will match the current airside area near the TGI Fridays restaurant and will bundle the ticketing, security and baggage claim operations.
Hoback, the chief development officer of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, spoke during the 113th Annual Convention and Awards Ceremony held by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce at the St. Florian Event Center in Wintersville on Wednesday.
The current facility is sometimes still called that “New” Airport, something Hoback said just isn’t the case.
“Well, it’s not new – it’s 30 years old.” he said. “What we have is not good enough. We currently have a people mover system that has exceeded its useful life and needs to be replaced urgently. It costs $ 4 million a year to maintain. We have 13 kilometers of baggage conveyor belts that lead from the landside terminal to the airside terminal, which have long exceeded their useful life and need to be replaced.
“I’m proud that it looks so good on the outside for a normal passenger, but it is really all the systems behind the walls that really go beyond their useful life.”
It’s essentially a facility built for another era – a time when US Airways operated a hub from the airport, a time when it handled 21 million passengers a year and forecasts showed it was on the best Gone was to see that number rose to 32 million passengers, a time prior to September 11, 2001.
Changes that followed resulted in US Airways going through some bankruptcies and closing their local hub before finalizing a merger with American Airlines in 2015. At that time, annual air traffic at the airport had dropped to 7.5 million passengers. That number would bounce back to 10 million passengers before the COVID-19 pandemic breaks out.
When all the work is done, Hoback said the facility will turn into the best airport for people starting their trip in the region or ending their trip in the region.
And it won’t be the first time Pittsburgh has served as a role model for air travel.
“We have been setting standards in aviation for 90 years” Hoback said, referring to 1931 when Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin opened. It became the world’s first fully fortified airfield and the first lighted airfield.
This innovation continued with the construction of the 1952 “old” Airport terminal.
“That was really a further development of the terminal facilities”, Hoback explained. “It had a cinema and a viewing platform. It was way ahead of its time – it was seven stories of granite. It was just a brilliant building. “
And that led to the current configuration.
“That set the bar very high” Hoback continued. “That was very innovative. It had an X-shaped design for our airside terminal where planes could actually fly all the way around. It had shopping that was amazing. Everyone wanted to stop in Pittsburgh to shop when we were a hub. “
The vision is now to build an airport that is flexible enough to last for 40 years, that really reflects the region, that is efficient and offers reduced operating costs and increased sales opportunities.
For example, the rolling hills of the area will be reflected in the roof, which lets in plenty of natural light. Columns of trees will greet passengers inside to reflect the area’s hardwood industry.
There will be plenty of space for meeters and greeters – the people who accompany passengers on departure to the airport and wait for them after they have flown in.
“Nowhere in the world does that happen to the same extent as it does on site” said Hoback. “And that says a lot about our community.”
It is a transformation that will take place while the airport is fully operational.
“One of the most unique aspects of this is the fact that during the construction of most airports it is like changing a tire on a car that is moving too fast.” said Hoback. “Our passengers will almost never find out that we are under construction unless they look outside.”
When all the work is done, the arriving passengers will know they are in Pittsburgh, Hoback added.
“When people visit the region, I often take them with me and drive them through the Fort Pitt Tunnels. I don’t think there are many places in the world that have a front door, like when you come through the tunnel and this amazing cityscape emerges. “ he explained.
“When we started talking about the project, we found that for 10 million passengers a year, the region’s doorstep is actually at Pittsburgh Intentional Airport. We wanted to make sure we were building an airport that the region deserves. “
Hoback wasn’t the only speaker on the agenda. Cameron Mitchell, the founder and president of Columbus-based Cameron Mitchell Restaurant, shared an overview of his operations, which has grown to 30 concepts in 42 states plus Washington DC since the first location opened in Worthington on October 5, 1993.
Mitchell said that while working on COVID-19 is difficult, he is optimistic about the future of the restaurant industry.
On this evening, among others, the late Suzanne Kresser was honored, who was awarded a prize for her life’s work for her work in the community.
Kresser died in June at the age of 51. The award was received by her mother and father, Linda and Frank Slowikowski, and a sister, Sherri Wilson.
Dinner was the last Tricia Maple-Damewood will chair as President. Maple-Damewood, who announced in August that she would be leaving the post at the end of the year, said she would work closely with her successor, Kate Sedgmer, to ensure a smooth transition until then.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is the editor-in-chief of the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times.)
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