After experiencing some turbulence and a long delay, the Hollywood Burbank Airport is a major step closer to having a brand-new terminal, a project one official hailed as the most significant in the airport’s history.
The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority Commission, which governs the Hollywood Burbank Airport jointly owned by the cities, in December awarded a design-build contract for its new terminal to a joint venture group. The project will ultimately replace the nearly century-old one with a contemporary facility that meets modern safety standards and represents a more efficient design.
The Holder, Pankow, TEC Joint Venture has begun preconstruction work on the terminal replacement, titled ElevateBUR, which Burbank voters overwhelmingly approved in a 2016 referendum. For the initial work, the joint venture was allotted $55 million and is expected to present three design renderings to the commission for consideration in April. Officials have not commented on an expected price tag, anticipating that to come into focus this spring.
“The city and our residents have gone down a very long road on this,” said Emily Gabel-Luddy, president of the airport commission and former Burbank councilwoman, at the Dec. 19 meeting. “I find that through the statement of qualifications, the RFQ (request for qualifications), the RFP (request for proposals) and the supporting bids that we have the best possible team we could have for this project.”
The joint venture brings together Atlanta-based Holder Construction, which has handled numerous airport projects nationwide; Pasadena-based Pankow Builders, which has handled local projects like the Mission College East Campus Complex in Sylmar and the Zev Yaroslavsky Family Support Center in Van Nuys; Inglewood-based TEC Constructors & Engineers, which has contributed to numerous projects at Los Angeles International Airport; Dallas-based Corgan, an architecture firm that has a plethora of airport projects, including at LAX, in its portfolio; New York-based CannonDesign, which worked on the Showtime West Coast headquarters in West Hollywood; and Kansas City, Missouri-based Burns & McDonnell, which boasts a variety of aviation engineering expertise.
“We’ve worked on all of the major airports for the last 30 years here in Southern California, other than this one, so we’re very happy to be here,” TEC President and Chief Executive Tim Coffey told the airport commission.
The joint venture emerged as one of three groups shortlisted from the airport authority’s initial request for qualifications in July. Those three entities were then invited to submit bid proposals by October, after which the airport authority’s executive committee reviewed them. The committee unanimously recommended the prevailing joint venture earlier in December.
As part of the evaluation, the committee presented the applicants with a surprise scenario and tasked them to produce a response. The committee wanted to observe their approach and judge how the applicants worked as a team, according to consultant Rebekah Gladson, president of the New Mexico architecture and planning firm XI-3.
“When we would ask a question, they gave us a very straightforward answer, and if we had to ask for clarification, they answered it,” she explained in December. “You can ask a question and — we’ve all had media training — you don’t have to answer the question. You can answer something else. They did not do that. I think what it leads to is better communication. They listened well and they answered precisely.
“This team actually worked as a team, and they came back and asked (airport Executive Director Frank Miller) to be part of the discussion,” Gladson continued. “There were teams that never asked to have any input from the (director). That’s a pretty big red flag.”
Doug Clough, a senior vice president with Holder Construction and project executive for the joint venture, hailed the terminal replacement as a “once-in-a-lifetime project and opportunity” for the airport and community. He touted his firm’s nationwide experience and the importance of involving local partners.
“We recognize that when we come and do a project like this, you need that national expertise. We also recognize that having the local component to it — the local knowledge not only from a subcontractor relationship perspective but also the local conditions, from the seismic perspective, et cetera — is also really important,” Clough said at the December meeting. “Early on in the process, we identified Pankow as that perfect partner. We’ve actually known Pankow for years. The chemistry worked out great and so they are that piece.
“Similarly,” he continued, “TEC is also a local contractor and we wanted that expertise as well. They bring not only the local piece but also the aviation expertise of Southern California to the table. Quite frankly, TEC is also an important part of reflecting the community that we build in.”
This new terminal will replace a building originally constructed in 1930 and will be located on the north side of the east-west runway, across from the current building. It will boast 14 gates, the same number the airport currently has. The relocation and new construction will take into account modern Federal Aviation Administration regulations, seismic protections and likely a large sustainability footprint.
Clough said alongside the usual public outreach, he expects to host “eco-charettes” to solicit input from the community on what they expect in terms of environmentally friendly attributes and sustainable practices.
“We’re thrilled that that’s a very high priority for you and that you want to make this airport the most sustainable in the nation,” Clough said. “We certainly want to be a part of that and help you achieve that.”
Officials expect to open the new terminal in October 2026, after which they will have a year to demolish the existing building.
“Aggressive schedule, but everyone’s comfortable with it, pending anything unforeseen,” Miller, the airport director, said in a phone interview.
Miller explained that the airport authority opted to go with a design-build team instead of the typical route of hiring an architect first, accepting a design and then seeking a builder — a decision that required FAA approval. This was to ensure all the relevant parties started at the beginning and worked throughout the whole process collaboratively.
“From the very beginning, we’ll have all the players at the table at the airport as we begin to do our visioning and figure out the best way to build it,” he said.
The joint venture will provide the airport authority its guaranteed maximum price — save for some contingencies, as is normal — for the project at 60% of the preconstruction design, Miller said. On top of the usual funding method of selling bonds, Miller added that the project may be able to benefit from federal infrastructure funding approved in 2022 as well as financing through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act — something not typically available to airports.
“Because Burbank is really a multimodal type of facility — with two nearby train stations, the rental car facility, our local transit buses — that put us in a place where we could become eligible for this money,” Miller said.
Long time coming
This progress represents a major shift from the turn of the century, when the city of Burbank and the airport authority reached such an impasse that voters in 2000 gave themselves the ultimate authority on a terminal project. The parties spent more than a decade repairing their relationship, ultimately settling on a modern replacement terminal (as opposed to the previously discussed expansion to the existing terminal) that maintained the 14 gates, the selling of some property to offset costs and maintaining a meaningful effort to reduce nighttime noise pollution.
Nearly 70% of Burbank voters in 2016 approved this terminal replacement initiative. Once the election was certified in 2017, the airport authority got to work, selecting a program manager and exploring financing opportunities. Complicating the timeline, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 forced the airport authority to suspend the project for 18 months.
“We basically put the project on hold. We really needed an opportunity to see what was happening,” Miller said. “Everything started to come together this past year. Probably around late spring, we started to feel more comfortable with where the airport would be.”
Gabel-Luddy, along with commissioners Felicia Williams, Ara Najarian, Tyron Hampton and Frank Quintero, voted to approve the agreement. Commissioners Andy Wilson and Robert “Bud” Ovrom abstained from voting, while commissioner Paul Dyson rejected the deal. An abstain vote concedes to the majority decision, legally. Commissioner Paula Devine was absent.
Dyson cast a no vote because he took issue with the 1,457-page contract lacking assisting features like an executive summary or index page, impeding his ability to navigate it to answer his own questions. Ovrom and Wilson harbored similar concerns about lacking the time to pour over the document but were unwilling to hold up the project further.
Wilson had earlier expressed that he harbored no delusions about the scope of this project and broadly endorsed it.
“This will be, I think, the most significant project in the history of the airport,” he said in December.