(FOX 11 / CNS) Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will join airport officials at LAX today to celebrate the opening of a sleek shopping and dining area at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and nine new boarding gates designed to accommodate the latest generation of super large jumbo jets.
The milestones being celebrated today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon represent the first phase of a $1.9 billion overhaul of the terminal -- the centerpiece of a wider $4.1 billion Capital Improvement Project at LAX, the largest public works project in the city's history.
Most of the airlines that operate out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal will be using the new gates starting today, according to airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles. Of those airlines, six fly the new generation jumbos, such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-8, she said.
The terminal improvements also include a 150,000-square foot mall-like pavilion named after former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and featuring high-end dining, retail and lounges. The several dozen retailers and restaurants set to open in the Villaraigosa Pavilion include wine bars, offshoots of hip L.A. eateries and shops selling caviar and designer clothing.
The restaurants include ink.sack, Border Grill, Umami Burger, 800 Degrees and Larder at Tavern, and 50,000 square feet of retail space featuring shops such as Fred Segal, Bulgari, Porsche Design and Kitson.
Weary international travelers arriving at the new terminal will be greeted by high-resolution images displayed on jumbo digital screens embedded into the architecture.
Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports -- the city agency that runs LAX and other airports in the region -- said earlier this year that the sophistication infused into the new terminal would give LAX an edge since airlines that fly long distances are selective about where they stop.
"We are competing with every other city that has woken up and realized that these international flights are an absolute bread basket and backbone for their economy,'' she said. "We are about to deliver what the airlines and the passengers have come to expect from a world-class international travel experience. And I dare say we've actually even exceeded that.''
The pavilion's main architect, Curtis Fentress, said he focused on making passing through LAX a relaxing, inviting experience -- in sharp contrast to the airport's reputation as a disappointment for passengers.
A frequent traveler himself, Fentress said his design, which features large windows that let natural light stream in, "gives you a nice warm hug when you come into the building -- it makes you feel good, and that's what it's about.'' Fentress also designed Incheon International Airport in South Korea.
Once all of the airlines have changed over to the new gates, the old gates will be torn down and a second phase of renovation -- including another nine new boarding gates, a renovated immigration and passport control area and new federal security-screening areas -- will get underway, with completion planned for 2015.
The upgrades came almost a decade after they were mired in several lawsuits, now resolved. City Officials now face another round of lawsuits from community groups and surrounding cities stemming from recent approvals of projects in other parts of the airport, including a widening of the north runway that would bring the airport 260 feet closer to residential areas.
From Hal Eisner:
I've been covering this
story for awhile. The new international terminal. How it's part of a much
larger improvement project for LAX. How the new terminal, complete with a
shopping mall inside, is twice the size of the current one. It's 1.2 million
square feet. Most importantly, it has 18 new gates nine, of which, can
accommodate the new super sized jumbo jets like the Airbus A-380's.
It also has
a great big hall. By some it's referred to as the "great hall" but
it's official name is the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Pavilion. And, speaking
of Mayor Villaraigosa one of the high points of today's big ribbon cutting
ceremony is a photo op you just don't see everyday. It's like when all of the
surviving presidents get together for something. This time it will a shot of
Mayors Riordan, Hahn, Villaraigosa and Garcetti. Also, on hand will be the daughters
of late Mayor Tom Bradley after whom the Tom Bradley International Terminal is
named. Now, that's a picture I'm looking forward to seeing!