L.A. airport plans $800M facility upgrade

Denver-based Fentress Architects has landed a "modernization" design contract for Los Angeles International Airport, one of the largest construction projects going forward in the U.S. at a time when few massive projects are under way.

"It's about an $800 million construction project," said Curt Fentress, principal of the firm that designed the terminal at Denver International Airport.

"I do not know everything going on in the country, but this has to be one of the biggest. I would say this is the biggest thing in L.A. since the Getty Museum and that was a $1 billion project," Fentress said.

"This is a very nice project to have with the economy the way it is. It's a lifesaver," Fentress added in a phone interview Monday.

The design contract is for the west side of the Tom Bradley International Terminal and a new midfield concourse.

While the design contest that Fentress won focuses on the area for international flights, the firm also presented a master plan that would include a "people-mover system, a new concourse and a new central terminal," Fentress said.

"The whole master plan would be about a $6 billion or $7 billion project. This is the first phase. I think we would probably have to compete for future phases," he said.

The latest renovations, which will include about 250,000 square feet of retail space on several floors, is needed because the airport is losing international flights at a rapid rate, Fentress said.

Fentress beat about 10 other architectural firms across the country and Europe.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa last month described the Fentress design as "spectacular," one that embodies the "character of Los Angeles and creating a remarkable sense of place. It is unmistakably L.A."

But Brett Snyder, who authors a blog called the Cranky Flier, was less thrilled. "It's a beautiful design, but it's a complete and total waste of money," Snyder wrote.