Long Beach Airport Revitalizing a Hollywood Icon

Long Beach Airport has come up with a new $75 million plan to restore itself closer to its former glory.

Long Beach Airport Project

The Long Beach Airport has been used in a number of movies over the decades. Iconic movie scenes shot at the airport include “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer” (1947), “Executive Suite” (1954) and “Key to the City” (1950). More recently, it has been featured in Tv shows such as 24 and Modern Family. Its revitalization plan include:

Project Cost: $75 million

Main Player: Swinerton Builders

Timeline: Expected completion Fall 2021.

Even the most glamorous of Hollywood icons fall out of favor eventually.

Long Beach Airport, home of a spectacular 1941 Streamline Moderne-style terminal that has starred in movies and TV shows throughout the years, has struggled to adapt the building to the rigors of air travel today. Now it has come up with a new $75 million plan (expected completion Fall 2021) to simultaneously sideline the building as a center of activity while restoring it closer to its former glory.

“When it opened in the 1940s, Long Beach Airport’s terminal building served nearly all the functions required for commercial travel. Over the years, as operations have grown and become more complex, most of those functions have been removed from the building.”

Trailers were erected to handle gate areas until a new concourse was built in 2012.

Baggage claims were put outside on both the north and south edges of the terminal. A TSA passenger screening building was opened next door. Meanwhile, TSA baggage screening was moved to an area just west of the terminal. Bags are then carried in an overhead conveyor above passengers’ heads to the make-up area where bags are prepared to be put on airplanes. The baggage operation in particular is quite complex and inefficient.

What remains inside the terminal today?

The ground floor holds the airport’s cramped ticket counter space, a small café, and a gift shop while the second floor is home to a long-shuttered restaurant space along with administrative offices.  Though the opening of the new concourse enabled travelers to walk around the entire original building and admire its design, the view is marred by fencing that hides the patchwork of airport functions that have been shoe-horned into whatever space is available. The result is a sub-optimal experience for travelers and for airport workers who have to navigate the system.

To fix these issues, Long Beach has embarked on what it has coined the “Terminal Area Improvement Project – Phase II.” This has already been approved by the Long Beach City Council, and the project has been awarded to Swinerton Builders. Here’s a look at what that entails.

Bags Travel Less

The inadequately-sized ticket counter area will be moved out of the historic terminal building into a brand new building immediately to the south. This new building will sit on top of one of the existing baggage claim areas and will connect directly to a new TSA baggage screening building. After screening, bags will go to the attached make-up area and then go out to aircraft. Bags will no longer need to cross over passenger areas, and will be entirely out of the view of travelers after being checked.

Across the courtyard to the north, a new, consolidated baggage claim area will open to replace the three claim areas on opposite sides of the terminal today.

Cars Not Planes

If it sounds like this removes the historic terminal building from the everyday operation entirely, that’s almost correct.  It’s true that no functions related to air travel will be in the building any longer, but it will still serve a purpose.  The bottom floor will be converted to rental car counters. Those today exist in a trailer erected in the middle of a parking lot across the street.

That parking lot also holds the rental cars themselves, but those will move to a new lot being built just to the north of the terminal in an area that’s not used for passengers today. That will free up the old lot for a higher purpose.

Ground Transport Gets a Home

With rental cars moved out of the prime parking lot location across from the terminal, ground transport will finally get a purpose-built home.  Taxis, limos, shared shuttles, ridesharing, buses, and valet parking will have the lot rebuilt to handle their operations. Today, those services are scattered around various parts of the airport. Taxis, for example, have to queue up by going through the primary parking garage and sitting on a curb that goes to the parking lot exit.  Buses are a block away tucked away behind that garage.

Putting the Finishing Touch

When this is completed later in 2021, the historic terminal will no longer play a central part in the air travel experience, but the overall flow will dramatically improve for travelers. While the terminal is marginalized in function, the fencing and other obstacles that have obstructed the view for years will finally come down revealing the building in all its glory.

The next time Hollywood comes calling, it may find that instead of having faded, this icon will once again be ready for the spotlight.

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