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"San Jose, California envisions futuristic airport terminal design"

Sunday, May 23, 2004

San Jose envisions futuristic airport terminal design
By Frank Sweeney

San Jose's airport terminal of the future will be flashy, high-tech and
very 21st century.

Picture a long concourse with sail-shaped elements on the exterior
softly shimmering in the sunlight to cast shade on towering glass walls
that enclose an airy, dramatic interior.

At night, interior lights will shine through curved, translucent roof
panels on the airfield side, giving the two-level building a glow that
will be seen for miles from the air.

"It will be a stunning view from the sky," said Steve Weindel, design
principal for M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, which designed the
$289 million North Concourse at Mineta San Jose International Airport.
The concourse design was unveiled Thursday at a San Jose City Council
study session.

The new concourse is expected to open in late 2006. It will connect the
existing terminals now separated by open aircraft ramps and parking
lots, and will feature larger restroom stalls, new restaurants and
shops, an automated baggage screening system and a wider sidewalk for
passenger loading and unloading.

Council members praised the design, which they will be asked to approve
June 22.

"Yes, I think you've got it right," Councilman Chuck Reed said.

"You've really done a great job," said Vice Mayor Pat Dando.

However, the council did make more suggestions and told airport staff
and the architects to look into expanding the building's floor area,
although not the number of gates.

"I'm concerned that you are trying to fit a lot into a really tight
box," said Councilwoman Cindy Chavez. There's not enough space for
public art, she said.

Construction is expected to start later this year and take 30 months to

The North Concourse is the first phase of the airport's $1.8 billion
passenger terminal expansion plan. When completed in 2011, the James M.
Nissen terminal, named for the city's first airport manager who guided
the development of most of the existing facility, will stretch nearly a
mile from north to south.

For the next few years, San Jose's airport will continue to be a
mishmash of architectural styles -- the 1965 Terminal C, the 1990
Terminal A and the recently completed international arrivals terminal.
But that will change; the style of the North Concourse will prevail.

Weindel said the architects took into consideration suggestions council
members made at an April 12 workshop to come up with the final design.
Council members had said they want the building to be a functional
success, comfortable and easy to use, and have memorable architecture
representative of San Jose.

The North Concourse will have a lot of subtle but important improvements
over the older buildings.

The restrooms, for example, will have larger stalls so travelers can
wheel their luggage inside, Weindel said.

Some people want a place to put their shoes back on after passing
through the security checkpoints, he said. They're accommodated.

There will be food concessions in the meet-and-greet areas outside the
security screening stations.

The sidewalk in front of the terminal will be 30 feet wide -- 10 feet
more than usual -- to alleviate congestion, Weindel said.

That pleased Councilwoman Nora Campos. "Currently, you feel like you're
on the edge," she said.

Despite the attractive features, security requirements drove the design
of the North Concourse, said Frank Kirkbride, assistant director of

The lower level will house an automated in-line baggage screening system
to sort luggage and search for explosives. The upper level will have
ticket counters, baggage claim, passenger screening stations, food and
drink concessions and boarding gates.

But council members had other concerns and suggestions Thursday.

Chavez said the concourse should have facilities for nursing mothers.
And the retail stores should reflect local businesses and artists, much
as the Portland, Ore., terminal does.

When someone can't clear security because of inadvertently carrying a
contraband item such as a family-heirloom pocket knife, Councilwoman
Judy Chirco said, she'd like to see boxes or envelopes made available in
the checkpoint line for travelers to mail items home.

"That would be one of the greatest stress relievers," Chirco said.

It will be done, airport officials said.

Dando, Chavez, Campos and Councilman Terry Gregory said the art program
for the terminal needs more community outreach meetings and input from
the public.

And Dando said council members will appoint members of the public to the
art steering committee.

In later years, a South Concourse is planned south of Terminal C. Then a
new Central Terminal would replace the old Terminal C, giving the
airport a 40-gate double-deck facility stretching nearly a mile.

Passengers would ride people-movers over the long distances from ticket
counters in the Central Terminal to airline gates in the concourses.

A double-deck road in front of the terminal would separate traffic.

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