Portland International Airport chopped off the first letter of the 'lphabet. No, really.
Travelers heading for the runway can find signage pointing toward concourses B, C, D and E — but not A.
The stuffy, low-ceiling space closed to the public overnight on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and the concourse will be demolished over the next three months to make way for an extension of Concourse B. It's a $100 million slice of the ongoing $2 billion PDX Next campaign that will dramatically reshape the city's acclaimed airport until 2025.
Currently, the most noticeable change will be for regulars on Alaska and Horizon airlines — or anyone needing a regional flight to Seattle, Medford or Northern California. Those gates have left Concourse A, and will be rehoused primarily in Concourse C with a few in B for the next 16 to 18 months.
"Folks come in, they use the airport, they go through the checkpoint, and they turn left," said PDX spokeswoman Kama Simonds. "Now you're not going left anymore, you turn right."
The Port of Portland held a departure party on Tuesday, Nov. 19, both in mourning and in celebration of the end of an admittedly utilitarian portion of a facility with an international reputation for excellence.
Standing on what he deemed "the world's smallest stage for the state's biggest project," Port Executive Director Curtis Robinhold said Concourse A was never meant to last forever. In fact, it was built in 1988 as a temporary structure.
"Despite its nature as something that feels more like a bus station or a habitrail," said Robinhold, "the people here have made it a loving and caring place."
The construction project will employ about 200 workers at its peak, according to Derrick Beneville, the project manager for Hoffman and Skanska. There will be more than 50 subcontractors on site, with roughly a quarter of them small businesses. They'll be squeezing into a tight work zone bordered by an active runway on one side — and bustling light-rail tracks on the other.
"Some places, we only have five to 15 feet to do our work," said Beneville.
Airport as artwork
Portland firm ZGF Architects has big plans for the redesign of Concourse B, which will replace Concourse A when completed in 2021. While the exterior will be precast concrete, inside walls will be lined in Oregon White Oak, the ceiling will be perforated metal and the bathrooms are getting a mosaic tile treatment.
Sky-high windows are a must, and the mezzanine level will include trellises strewn with greenery. Local vendors Good Coffee and Screen Door got the contract for concessions. And yes, there will be plenty of outlets for charging electronics.
"This concourse is all about really evoking Pacific Northwest qualities, so bringing in a lot of the landscape that surrounds our beautiful state," said ZGF interior designer Dannie Fautch. We're "doing a double-height space and expanding the volume and providing the best passenger experience with daylight."
The Regional Arts and Culture Council will select an artist this spring to create an original piece adorning the wood wall and second-story glass. Guest circulation in B will be guided by a path made of terrazzo, which is a stony mix of marble, quartz, granite and glass.
Selfie seekers have already made much of the loss of the vintage geometric carpet that covered most of PDX since the late 1980s, but a longish segment of the teal-colored pattern had previously survived at the end of Concourse A.
Now the very last hold-out of the old carpet is at the end of Concourse E. Well, until this summer, when that disappears too.
"It's the end of an era," said the spokeswoman, Simonds, "Many eras."
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