At one time North Carolina’s busiest airport, Smith Reynolds Airport near downtown Winston-Salem is planning $47.8 million in expansions and improvements, including a $7.2 million makeover of its 80-year-old terminal building.
The multiple projects are fitting for an airfield that supports 3,665 jobs, generates $29 million in annual property tax revenue and spins off $815 million in economic impact per year, according to a recent report by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The work, which includes taxiway and ramp upgrades, runway rehabilitation, and hangar construction and renovations — in addition to the terminal building — is funded by a variety of federal and state grants in addition $17 million in limited obligation bonds, debt that will be repaid from airport operations revenue, and will require no tax dollars collected either by Forsyth County or the City of Winston-Salem.
“It won’t be the taxpayers paying for this,” said Airport Director Mark Davidson.
Effectively a downtown airport, Smith Reynolds is landlocked, limiting its revenue generating capacity, thus the need for expansion. Among the industrial space growth projects is an offer to purchase a 30-acre former school bus lot adjacent to the airfield at 4897 Lansing Drive for $1.5 million. That purchase must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and NCDOT. It also includes two new 20,000-square-foot corporate hangars and associated ramp improvements at a cost of $7.8 million.
Other projects include:
• Runway 15-33 Rehabilitation, $8.5 million, 90% funded by NCDOT and FAA, 10% locally.
• Taxiway A relocation, $15 million, funded by FAA and NCDOT.
• Taxilane L and ramp rehabilitation, $8 million, funded by NCDOT.
• Quonset hangar rehabilitation (new roof, wall, siding, floor repair, lighting, hangar door replacement and paving), $2.1 million, funded by limited obligation bond.
Much of the infrastructure improvements will be completed in 18 months.
The runway and taxiway work will support use of the additional hangar space, which Davidson said is necessary to maximize the revenue-generating potential of the airport, whose primary uses are private aviation and aircraft maintenance. The airport is home to 93 privately owned aircraft and facilitates more than 46,000 annual operations. Because the airport is owned by Forsyth County, the new hangars and ramps won’t directly generate property tax revenue. Additional airplanes they can house, though, are subject to local property taxes.
“Everybody says it’s an underutilized asset,” Davidson said of Smith Reynolds. “We recognize that and we’re trying to do as much we can with it. That’s one of the reasons I was brought here and we’re slowly chipping away at it. It has a lot more growth opportunity.”
Project work at the terminal building includes exterior façade; demolition of departure lounge and air cargo building; flex tenant space; modernization of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life safety systems; and installation of the elevator. Scheduled for 30 months to complete, fixed base operator Signature Flight Support is expected to move from its current location at Smith Reynolds into the terminal.
“The terminal building is a front door to the community,” Davidson said. “It’s just outlived its useful life, so we want to create more space and opportunity for businesses to lease in it. The idea is to lease as much space as we can and we’ve also talked about having a place for food trucks to park and plug in.”
Unrelated to the project is the nearing completion of Forsyth Tech Community College’s Mazie S. Woodruff Aviation Technology Lab, a 53,000-square-foot, $16 million facility to house the school’s aviation systems technology and aviation electronics (avionics) technology programs.