People visiting Gainesville by plane could soon check into a hotel that’s only steps away.
Gainesville Regional Airport has five big projects underway. One of the biggest projects is an on-site hotel.
With a 40 percent increase in airport traffic over the past eight years, airport officials are in discussion to lease some of their land to developers for a new hotel.
The hotel project is currently in the early planning stages. The airport will soon be sending out a request for proposals. Developers and hotel companies will then be able to pick where they want the hotel to be located on GRA’s property.
There are two sites to choose from: The first is the area where the employee parking lot is currently located. The second is on the edge of the GRA property, which borders the Alachua County Fairgrounds. The construction for the hotel and an additional west wing is not expected to be completed this year.
“It’s the business traveler who is really driving our record numbers,” airport spokeswoman, Laura Aguiar, said. “Those business travelers often need a place to stay when they’re in town.”
Aguiar said the hotel would also have a positive economic impact for the airport.
“The hotel would actually give us a new form of revenue that is not connected to our passenger traffic,” Aguiar said. “That is really good because it diversifies our revenue base.”
Jean Garnier, a taxi driver who frequently drives to the the airport, has his doubts about the hotel. He said it’s too far from downtown Gainesville, the University of Florida and shopping areas.
The hotel could also pose problems for airport employees who currently park in one of the proposed spaces. The airport would have to allocate or build a new employee parking lot.
“The parking lot is really where we are seeing those growing pains,” Aguiar said.
The airport currently doesn’t have enough short-term or long-term parking for passengers. Officials are working on plans to expand parking.
The airport currently has grassy sections that are considered “overflow parking,” that surround the main long-term and short-term parking lot. These grassy areas will soon be paved over to create more permanent parking, which would also help if the hotel is constructed on their parking lot.
In addition to the hotel and parking expansion, the airport is also building a new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Station, a west wing and an apron, which will provide a larger space for aircrafts to park. The Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Station will replace the old station that was built in the 1970s and will most likely be located next to the air traffic control tower. The new west wing will add more bridges to the airport so passengers can board their flights without walking onto the tarmac.
These three projects will be funded by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration, Florida Department of Transportation and the Passenger Facility Charge, which gets it’s money from a 10 percent fee on every ticket sold.
Gainesville Regional Airport expects the apron to be completed by June 11. Both the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Station and expanded passenger parking lot are expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
Editor’s Note: The article originally stated airport officials had leased some of their land to developers. Officials are only discussing the possibility of leasing the land.