What makes a city great in the world? In an interesting article published by the International Journal of Urban Planning and Policy, the attributes that make a city distinguished and extraordinary involve the four C’s: Currency, cosmopolitanism, concentration, and charisma. Currency conveys a city’s financial drive and value on how it shapes the world; Cosmopolitanism refers to a city’s ability to embrace international, multicultural, and poly-ethnic features that enable people and ideas to circulate throughout the society and community; Concentration reflects a city’s demographic density and productive mass that creates a vibrantly pulsating city, constant with human activity, providing most inhabitants with material well-being and excellent transportation both within its community, and connection to the outside world; and Charisma pertains to the City’s worldwide image and its symbols, logo, and identity supported by a meaningful history.
According to numerous surveys and data from many sources ranking urban greatness, and discussions in the International Journal of Urban Planning, urban scholars suggest that in the United States there are four great cities; New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Los Angeles makes the cut because:
L.A.’s Currency — In our age where media shapes mass perception, Los Angeles is the center of image makers. Not only is Los Angeles the entertainment industry capital of the world, it also is one of the highest interconnected cities around the globe, and is the second highest technology center in the country. Our influence and access is partially dependent on an efficient and effective international airport bringing people and visitors, business, and technology into our city daily.
L.A.’s Cosmopolitanism — Los Angeles reflects a unique and large immigrant population, the majority is Hispanic but other immigrants also hail from Asia and parts of the Middle East. To this robust expansive international mix, Los Angeles also has large influxes of American citizens from the East, Midwest, and South as L.A. is a city that embraces the values of freedom, democracy and upward mobility. This ever increasing importance of our international immigrant cultures relies on LAX to connect us to the homelands spread throughout the world.
L.A.’s Concentration — New York City and San Francisco have 24,000 and 16,000 people per square mile respectively, and major mass transit utilization, and excellent airports. Los Angeles reflects a density of 8,000 people per square mile linked together by a more postmodern linkage of freeways and cyberspace; a more sprawling form of concentration but equally dense and productive in the end output. LAX is our world-wide connection, and LAX must thrive in order for us to thrive.
L.A.’s Charisma — Ours is a city with sunny weather, beaches, and Hollywood glamour, providing Los Angeles with enough cache to make it widely appealing. This is made possible due to a fast moving, free and open environment whose appeal and access is linked to the outside world population in part by a world class airport.
Los Angeles is a fantastic city! LAX is the Gateway to our City, yet in the recent past has done only an adequate job of sustaining L.A.’s greatness. During the 1990s and early 2000s many airports around the nation and world undertook building of new airports and major terminal renovations; making their airports more world class. These major new terminals and upgrades included new airports such as Denver’s to the huge redevelopment and modernizing renovations in Atlanta, New York’s JFK Terminal 5, Amsterdam, Tokyo, San Francisco, Chicago, Seoul, London, Beijing, Dallas, Vancouver BC, Miami, Washington DC, and Seattle to name just a few.
But during this prolific period of groundbreaking airport terminal upgrades, modernization, and redevelopment, Los Angeles for the most part stood on the sidelines. Los Angeles International Airport remained functional and the city’s greatness itself helped sustain LAX’s designation as one of the busiest in the world with passenger traffic of nearly 62,000,000 per year. LAX helped lead Los Angeles into the future the past 80 years, but of late, the forward momentum stalled due to a multitude of reasons. Many other airports lept in front of LAX in passenger satisfaction, cutting-edge facilities and services, while LAX ran in place with only modest improvements. LAX was getting relatively dated and tired.
But that is changing in a huge way! The period of modest inertia is ending in a cutting-edge, world-class manner as LAX is in the midst of a transformation that will truly, once again, make LAX the symbol and glamourous Gateway to our fine city!
LAneXt™ — The People Behind the Development Culture Change
Changing the landscape of a hub and an icon of a great city is no easy task. Transforming a major international airport gateway is a major challenge and undertaking. Both require a tremendous community spirit, team effort, and leadership. Los Angeles has the good fortune to have the leadership in place to make great things happen.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was elected and assumed office in July 2005, and reelected in 2009. A seven-member Board of Airport Commissioners (BOAC) governs Los Angeles World Airports and is composed of public-spirited business and civic leaders appointed by the mayor. Mayor Villaraigosa appointed the current airport commissioners, and Michael Lawson was elected president of the board in 2011. The mayor also appointed Gina Marie Lindsey to serve as executive director of LAWA. Roger Johnson is Deputy Executive Director of Airports Development and Debbie Bowers is Deputy Executive Director of Commercial Development, two key senior management positions in the redevelopment efforts.
The momentum for undertaking the latest push for major airport redevelopment started with the new mayoral administration and the Board of Airport Commissioners. The commitment to move forward started with resolving the myriad of planning, environmental impact constraints, and lawsuits that had hamstrung redevelopment for more than a decade.
“It has taken us 15 to 20 years to get to this point,” said Roger Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of Airports Development. “We did not have the necessary environmental entitlements to move forward until the settlement agreements with all of the lawsuits.”
“Once we settled the lawsuits the next major step was to hire a long-term executive director to help guide the redevelopment,” said Board of Airport Commissioners President Michael Lawson. Gina Marie Lindsey was a leader in the industry, having led the transformation of Seattle –Tacoma International Airport over 11 years. She was hired in 2007 to lead Los Angeles World Airports through this critical stage of redevelopment and revitalization at LAX, one of LAWA’s three airports.
“The airport was under political siege when I arrived as the environment and legal battles had resulted in an atmosphere that was very defensive and risk adverse,” said Executive Director Lindsey. “We had the exterior difficulties of the environmental and legal battles, but we also had to overcome our own internal organizational culture.”
When the team started, they faced numerous environmental and community challenges resulting from the aftermath of a 12-year controversial and contentious planning period. The difficulties were exacerbated by the financial and organizational upheavals the airline industry faced — and still must address — resulting from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
LAneXt™ — The Next Chapter for the Gateway to Los Angeles
“LAX is the portal gateway to Los Angeles and we are creating a showcase of Los Angeles,” said Commissioner Lawson, “ with more efficient and effective operations, functional iconic theme buildings, and concessions that reflect the L.A. Experience.” LAneXt™ is the next chapter in the story of LAX with over $4.11 billion in completed, or ongoing projects, and the largest public works program in the history of the City of Los Angeles.
This major redevelopment project will make the airport more operationally efficient and create the statement of entrance that Los Angeles deserves. Despite the Great Recession of recent years this project is creating 40,000 good paying jobs and pumping nearly $6.89 billion into the local economy without any funds being used from the City of Los Angeles general fund. This major transportation and infrastructure capital improvement program consisting of nearly 25 individual projects is being entirely funded by LAX operating revenues, Capital Improvement Project Funds, fees from passenger facilities charges, and airport revenue bonds.
“The team and project’s goal is to create an urban jewel, enhance customer service, and start with a mindset to develop singular and unique solutions to our vision, and prepare a foundation for others in the future to build upon,” said Lawson. “There are, in essence, nine different airports in one footprint represented by the combination of the nine terminal locations.” The challenge is to give each location an identity and to coordinate the functions and inter-connections between each.
The centerpiece of the LAneXt™ airport improvement program is the $1.545-billion New Tom Bradley International Terminal (New TBIT), which will double the size of the current Tom Bradley terminal to over 2.1 million square feet. This signature project will provide the Los Angeles region with a world-class transportation facility. New TBIT will feature 18 state-of-the-art gates, nine of which will be capable of handling new-generation super jumbo jets at one time, along with new aprons and taxiways on the airside surrounding the new facility. An architecturally stunning Great Hall will house 150,000 square feet of new, premium dining and shopping options and luxury airline lounges. A stateof- the-art, in-line baggage handling system and a new passenger security screening checkpoint with 80 lanes – conceivably the most in one terminal at any U.S. airport – will help departing passengers reach their boarding gates more quickly. For arriving passengers, the terminal’s International Arrivals Hall will be enlarged and more lanes added to expedite the customs and immigration process. The overall project will be major steps forward in airport design, safety, and convenience for the traveling public.
According to Roger Johnson, “One of the primary beneficiaries of the overall New TBIT project is international departures and arrivals. There will be more terminal direct contact gates and fewer aircraft having to use the inconvenient remote pads that require bussing passengers to and from the terminal. Arriving international immigration, customs and border protection functions will be greatly enhanced with many more primary inspection stations that will greatly reduce waiting times for passengers, much more comfortable facilities, and queuing and boarding gate areas that are significantly larger and more efficient.”
Every step of international arrivals is improving significantly and service greatly enhanced from immigration to baggage through customs. Where LAX currently greets international visitors with long lines, cramped space and frustration, the airport will greet them with modern efficiency, higher standards of passenger service, and comfortable, spacious surroundings. Departing international travelers will enjoy shorter lines as the Transportation Security Administration passenger security-screening areas are being consolidated and upgraded; 25,000 square feet of new and improved concessions pre-security screening and 150,000 square feet of concessions post-security screening.
Phase 1 of New TBIT is scheduled to open Spring 2013, which will include the Great Hall and all nine of the new-generation-aircraft boarding gates on the west side of the terminal. Phase 2, scheduled to finish in December 2014, will include the remaining nine new gates on the terminal’s east side, new passenger security screening station, enlarged customs/immigration International Arrivals Hall, and new airline lounges.
Not just limited to LAX’s primary international terminal, LAneXt™ also includes major undertakings in almost all the other airline terminals. One of the first was Terminal 6, as Alaska Airlines moved into this terminal this past spring. The airline labels the terminal as its Modern Airport of the Future facility that will improve efficiency and greatly enhance the customer experience. This $238-million terminal renovation was unveiled back in March, and our last issue of LAX Magazine published a feature on this facility.
In addition to Terminal 6, the other southside terminals are in the midst of major revamping with Terminals 4 (American), 5 (Delta), and 7/8 (United) installing in-line baggage screening systems and renovating the interiors. A total of 60 food-andbeverage and retail concessions featuring the LA Experience began opening in April and will finish by early 2013.
In our discussion with Debbie Bowers, Deputy Executive Director of Commercial Development, new concession excitement is taking place in every terminal of the airport. In addition to the total revamping of concessions in the southside Terminals 4, 5 and 7/8, Westfield Concessions Management LLC was named the new Terminal Concessions Manager for the remaining facilities. Westfield is charged with developing new creative concessions reflecting L.A.’s cultural diversity and cuisine to replace all existing ones in Terminals 1, 2, 3, 6, current TBIT, and the iconic LAX Theme Building, in addition to brand new space in New TBIT. Westfield’s first concessions are scheduled to open in Spring 2013 and be completed in 2014-2015.
The new operators include some of the best local Los Angeles operators and brands available as the goal was to create a truly new L.A.-based dining and retail experience. Local food and beverage, and retail brands and operators such as the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, The Counter, Kitson, Magic Johnson Sports, Klatch, Hugo Boss, Rip Curl, Chefs Wolfgang Puck, Ben Ford, and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, just to name a few and give you a taste of the exciting shopping and dining around the corner. We will be exploring the new concessions in depth in our next article in this series of LAneXt.
LAX is on track to living up to its potential and serving as a key anchor and icon of the region and fulfilling its role as the Gateway and Portal to Los Angeles and the Pacific. LAX is now significantly contributing to keeping Los Angeles a world-class city and one of the truly great cities of the world. Enjoy the ride!