NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Permitting is in the works for a pair of new parking lots that would boost Wilmington International Airport’s capacity by nearly a third.
ILM spokesperson Erin McNally said, between the two lots, the airport will gain nearly 400 spaces in addition to its current 1,500. It will bring the total to 1,900.
The first lot may open this summer, followed by the second in the fall, McNally indicated. The lots are to be built in undeveloped areas adjacent to current parking areas. One will be located between the terminal and the public safety office and the second behind the existing lots.
One of the lots is on the New Hanover County Technical Review Committee agenda for Feb. 15 and the plans include 113 spaces built on 2.4 acres in the midst of the 1,339 acres controlled by the airport.
The airport did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the lots will be reserved for employees or a specific use.
The plans would place the lot on a section of empty land northeast of the terminal, to the east of the north daily and rental car lots. The complex of hangars at the airport is directly to the north of the site.
Five spaces will be reserved for handicap parking, sidewalks and 4,784 square feet of access road. There are no wetlands in the site nor any space within a floodplain.
McNally said the planned expansions will meet the current demand on the airport, but was unable to provide passenger projections by press. Port City Daily previously reported the lots frequently neared capacity prior to the pandemic.
The airport is also considering more long-term plans to add parking. Those discussions are slated to happen over the next few months with more details expected by March.
In 2019 the airport was considering an additional parking lot and by last summer it was looking at prospective plans again, though no specifics materialized.
The airport has experienced a total recovery of capacity in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and set a passenger record in 2022. Its 1,086,245 passengers surpassed the 2019 total by 2%. Comparatively speaking, airport traffic in North Carolina was collectively down 8%, while nationally, air travel decreased 9%, with international traffic declining 15%.
The increases have been attributed to the availability of flights, with Delta and American using larger plans and new options for travelers. The airport added Avelo and Sun Country, both low-cost carriers, last year and Delta expanded its services from the airport. The major carrier now provides nonstop summer service to Boston and year-round service to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport
The additions are the latest in a line of projects to expand the airport’s services as demand climbs. Last May the authority unveiled a $100 million capital budget aimed at meeting the demand. Airport director Jeff Bourk said the airport would see a record-setting six months and in the next six months would set records as the airport sailed past its budget projections by about 57%.
In February 2022 it opened an expanded terminal that can accommodate 50% more people, expanded baggage claim, restaurant and retail space.
Airport business development director Carol LeTellier said the airport is in early stages of considering some new concessions and expects more details to be available after staff discusses the issue with the authority board.
“We put an RFP out on the street and we did get some responses, but we’re in a real preliminary review of those responses,” LeTellier said.
LeTellier said there are no recent new tenants in the airport’s 140-acre business park, and it has about 20 acres of space available for lease left.
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