Hartsfield-Jackson to get a new look

Hartsfield-Jackson International is about to get a nose-to-tail makeover, with plant walls, benches and and charging stations in the atrium and calming light spilling onto the concourses.

The $430 million modernization is aimed at giving the airport’s domestic terminal a “new, fresh, modern look” more akin to the newer international terminal, according to the airport.

“It will look like a more modern terminal,” said Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Miguel Southwell.

When the passenger terminal was built in 1980, it was the world’s largest at 2.5 million square feet — about 900,000 more than Lenox Square — and it has since expanded. The atrium was added in 1996.

But since the original terminal and concourses were built, Southwell said, architects have developed new ways of thinking about how building design and construction can influence well-being.

Traveling “is an anxious experience,” and letting more light in can help alleviate the stress, he said. “You’ll see some construction where the solid walls in the concourses will be replaced with glass. You’ll see higher ceilings, more lighting to mitigate some of that anxiety.”

Plans also include canopies to cover the passenger curbside, new wall finishes, demolition of stores to accommodate long lines at the main security checkpoint, new furniture in some areas and new signs, according to airport documents.

Southwell said the airport also plans to make the atrium “a showcase for smart and sustainable energy.” The airport plans a complete renovation of the atrium to create a “park like setting” with living plant walls, new seating, tables, charging stations, planters, benches and new art displays.

Other environmentally friendly plans in the project include bicycle parking at the terminal and energy-efficient lighting.

To pay for the work, the airport plans to seek $450 million in commercial financing, using the bulk of it as bridge financing for the terminal modernization until the airport issues bonds to pay for the work, Southwell said. The commercial financing will soon go before the Atlanta City Council for approval.

The modernization of the domestic terminal and Concourses T, A, B, C and D is expected to take three years. Of the $430 million price tag, $390 million will be paid for with the commercial financing, according to Hartsfield-Jackson chief financial officer Roosevelt Council Jr.

The rest will be covered by funds from the $4.50 facility charge travelers pay for each flight.

The airport is soliciting proposals from companies interested in working on the terminal modernization projects, and is holding a preproposal conference for those companies July 7.

The commercial financing will also pay for a $62 million replacement of about half of the airport’s aging jet bridges.

Southwell said the idea is to complete the modernization project without any significant disruption, adding that airlines will continue to operate their regular schedules through the construction.