Former Airport Terminal Building Could be Demolished or Renovated

 The former CIRA terminal, now nearly completely vacant (Photo: Christian Prenzler)

The former CIRA terminal, now nearly completely vacant (Photo: Christian Prenzler)

Members of the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority face an upcoming decision about the future of the former Central Illinois Regional Airport terminal building.

Aside from second floor-office space leased to the U.S. Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA), the structure is largely vacant. Ten-year tenant CJ’s Restaurant vacated the building April 25 after the BNAA filed papers with the McLean County Court to take possession of the property, complaining the restaurant had fallen behind “a significant amount” on rent.

CIRA staff estimate the vacancy results in around $56,000 a year in lost revenue for the airport authority.

The facility, decommissioned as the airport terminal building in 2001, also housed the NASA Challenger Learning Center until 2005.

Terry Reid of Bloomington construction consulting services firm TLR Associates presented BNAA board members with two options for the structure Tuesday afternoon: demolition and renovation.

“The restaurant is in pretty darn good shape, and actually the whole building is solid bones,” said Reid.

However the facility would require a number of costly upgrades before housing another tenant; two-thirds of the building need fire sprinklers installed, and the environmental hazards posed by asbestos and lead would need to be addressed.

Reid noted no work would have to be done before the airport authority secures a tenant.  

CJ's Restaurant closed in late April after ten years of operation (Photo: Christian Prenzler)

CIRA Executive Director Carl Olson said while the airport received a few informal inquiries into the former CJ’s space from “restaurant operators who believe they have just the right ticket to turn it into a gold mine,” the rest of the building has yet to attract business interest; “in fact, we haven’t had any inquiries on that space in quite some time.”

Olson said it’s possible remaining TSA staff may move into the current terminal building, leaving the second floor available as well, although the airport authority would seek to continue allowing the McLean County Civil Air Patrol to use a portion of the space for free.

With existing ramp access, Olson said the building could make way for future aircraft hangars if demolished. The property may also qualify for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to incentivize development, though Olson noted that wouldn’t be the airport authority’s first choice.

BNAA commissioners will review options for the building again at the next board meeting August 14.

Breanna Grow