Louis Armstrong International Airport's new effort to write a $2 million master plan will include a look at developing the airport's north side, a strategy that could put it at odds with Kenner Mayor-elect Phil Capitano's promise to protect the integrity of neighborhoods there.
The New Orleans Aviation Board awarded the master plan contract on Wednesday to a consortium headed by Corgan Associates of Dallas. The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, requires that airports receiving federal money have a master plan for future development and suggests updating it every five years, but Armstrong hasn't revised its plan in 13 years, said Mario Rodriguez, the airport's deputy director for planning and development.
"It's more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast rule, but it helps us justify our applications for federal grants," he said.
The estimated cost for the study is $1.5 million to $3 million; Rodriguez predicted it will be close to $2 million. The FAA will pay up to 75 percent of the costs.
Aviation Director Roy Williams said the study will cover a broad range of issues, including Armstrong's ability to handle more flights. That could bring the study into conflict with Kenner officials.
"Once we finish the expansion of Concourse D, there is really nowhere else to go on the south side without demolishing a lot of things that are already there," Williams said. "So it's logical that we look at the north side, for a new passenger terminal."
The number of people living between the airport's north fence line and Interstate 10 grew 17 percent, to 5,513, between 1990 and 2000, according to U.S. census data. Kenner's total population declined 2 percent, to 70,517.
Capitano said Thursday that he is willing to listen to the plans for the New Orleans-owned airport, while ensuring that residents are protected. "As long as it doesn't hurt the neighborhoods, I'm willing to work with them," he said.
However, he also said he wants to address long-simmering airport-Kenner issues such as flight paths for airline pilots, Kenner's representation on the Aviation Board and requiring an airport liaison to meet with neighborhood groups.
"If they can hire somebody to be a liaison in Washington, they can hire someone to be a liaison with Kenner residents," Capitano said.
Kenner has been at loggerheads with airport for several years over Armstrong's plans to widen Aberdeen Street from two lanes to four, to create a short link between the airport's north side and the Loyola Drive entrance to Interstate 10. City Councilman Marc Johnson has blocked the project, saying the airport has reneged on a proposal to give the city surplus land from the street right of way that could be used as a buffer between neighborhoods and the expanded street.
Kenner and the airport have also been in a standoff about how to develop residential property that the airport bought in the 1990s as part of its noise-mitigation program. In order for the property to be commercially viable, it must be consolidated into a large lots, which only Kenner has the authority to do.
Kenner officials have balked at consolidation before knowing what the airport wants to do with the property. Airport officials say no one will buy the land for commercial development until it is consolidated.
Capitano said he plans to meet with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to discuss a number of issues, including those surrounding the buyout property. Williams contends that north side development is not incompatible with neighborhoods.
"There is a lot of low-density development north of the airport. I think we can show that you could put thousands more housing units in the area while creating jobs for the people who live there," Williams said.
Corgan was chosen from nine applicants for the job of writing the master plan. The contract calls for the consortium to give 30 percent of the work to businesses certified to be disadvantaged. They are the New Orleans firms of Billes/Manning Architects, 7 percent; Julien Engineering, 5 percent; and Collaborative Resources, 2 percent; Creelman Associates of Paso Robles, Calif., 2 percent; TransSolutions of Fort Worth, Texas, 7 percent; and Jacobsen/Daniels of Detroit, 7 percent.
The firm of Kutchins and Groh of Fort Worth also is a subcontractor. Its partners, George Groh and Brad Kutchins, were formerly employed by The Mumphrey Group, the airport's former master consultant.
I've heard so much about them considering this after Concourse D is expanded, mostly from the standpoint of enhancing retail capability. Your thoughts?
Faire du ciel le plus bel endroit de la terre c'est impossible sans Concorde!