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PHOTO: The renovated Owen Roberts International Airport will expand from 77,000 to 207,000 square feet. (Courtesy of RS&H Group)
The Cayman Islands government this week took another step towards a $55 million renovation of Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA), as the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) issued concept designs for the expanded facility.
Florida based RS&H Group, which CIAA selected in January to provide design and construction services following a competitive bidding process, presented the new facility's design concepts Wednesday.
The renovated airport's design is based on the profile of the Cayman Islands' native green sea turtle, which has a flattened curved body and paddle-like arms. RS&H officials describe the design as "reflect[ing] the richness of the country's growth, achievements and history."
ORIA's redevelopment will include expansion of the arrivals and departure areas and will more than double the airport's current capacity, increasing its footprint from 77,000 to 207,000 square feet. The entire project is expected to take three years to complete, according to CIAA officials. The new building will be constructed in four phases, allowing the airport to remain in operation throughout the project.
"We are definitely on track and are accomplishing the deliverables on target," said Albert Anderson, CIAA's chief executive. "Next will be the design development and then we will issue the tender documents. The goal is to break ground by the summer of 2015."
ORIA currently has capacity to accommodate one million travelers per year; capacity will expand to 2.7 million annually following the renovation. Funds for the redesign are being generated through a $13 per-passenger fee CIAA collects from airlines that use the facility.
CIAA officials added that ORIA's current "A-frame" structure will be maintained under the new design and incorporated as a "recognizable architectural symbol." ORIA's three A-frames "symbolize the unity between the three islands: Grand Cayman in the center, and the two sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman at each side," said CIAA officials in a statement.
"I believe the public will be happy with the contemporary design of the new airport expansion which artistically reflects our three islands," said Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands tourism minister. "The airport is our main international gateway and an important economic driver for our country so I am pleased that steady progress continues to be made to increase its operating capacity."
Cayman Islands tourist arrivals surged in 2014 even as the nation struggled with an outdated ORIA that frequently crowded to overflowing. The Cayman Islands hosted 382,816 air arrivals last year, a 10.8 percent increase over 2013 and the country's highest figure since 2000 according to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.
Brian Major is Managing Editor for Digital Publications & Guides/Caribbean.
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