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Mon, Sep 22, 2008

Big Upgrade Plans For Sikorsky Memorial Airport

$27 Million Project Breaks Ground Despite Fickle Economy

Confidence in the potential of Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, CT is running high as a major upgrade gets underway. Shared by the communities of Stratford and Bridgeport, the airport will soon benefit from a new terminal, office buildings, and hangars at the facility that's not been updated in decades.

The Connecticut Post reports an enthusiastic ground-breaking ceremony took place last Thursday, with over 75 people in attendance. Spearheaded by aircraft management firm Volo Aviation LLC, the project brings professionals from the area as key players.

"Building stuff is great," Mark Coe, Volo's VP of Development said. "This is the first one, so far," added Bruce Beinfield of Beinfield Architecture. "It is exciting to work on an airport." The firm intends to incorporate some of the important history of the airport into the design of the new buildings.

Tearing down the old terminal and a few other buildings will make way for a new three-story terminal and office building. Also planned for construction are two new hangars and a new office building, creating 135,000 square feet of space. The first new building, housing the airport's management, is slated to be ready in six months, with the rest of the project coming to completion in 22 months.

Not surprisingly, some are opposed to the project, fearing increased activity and extended runways. The two neighboring communities haven't always seen eye to eye on the airport, either.

Physically located in Stratford but owned by Bridgeport, control and taxation have already been an issue. Placating the two sides, Volo has agreed to pay rent to Bridgeport, and about $200,000 annually to Stratford in lieu of taxes.

The airport has the interest of the mayors of both cities, who were also in attendance. Stratford Mayor James Miron, recognizing the support of the local business community, agreed to the significance of the project.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch referred to the potential of the "sleeping giant" airport. "My dad used to cut grass here before I was born," he said, viewing the green expanse. "It hasn't changed."

Volo President Thom Harrow said the upgrade plan has been in the works for about five years, and is seen as necessary despite the current downturn of the economy.

More than just providing new offices for Volo's 60 Stratford-based employees, the project is also designed to correct the mismatch of stepping off a plane representing a $30 million dollar investment and into a 60-year-old airport terminal, he said.



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