Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) has realized more than a 40% growth in the population of its service area over the past decade. Of significant importance to the long-range plan was an improved parking experience for airport visitors. The extreme weather conditions in western Michigan made it essential that patrons have access to safe, comfortable parking year-round.

Gresham Smith was initially brought onboard to develop a preliminary study and conceptual design for a long-range Terminal Area Redevelopment Program (TARP) of the landside property based on the projected growth for 2015. Following its completion, the airport again hired Gresham Smith to provide the final design for the TARP including a new parking structure.

We designed a new four-level, 4,800-space parking structure with all of the features necessary to provide a high level of customer service. Prominent elements include a helical entrance ramp with dynamic message signs to identify available parking spaces; a well-lit interior with extra height between parking levels to improve visibility; superior lighting and legibility of wayfinding signage to facilitate vehicular circulation; and two enclosed pedestrian walkways that connect to the existing terminal façade. Protection from snowfall and rain at the terminal curbside is provided by a grand canopy, a major design feature that spans the existing terminal roof and the top level of the new parking structure.

To assist the airport with establishing a brand image, Gresham Smith developed a holistic approach that makes both departing and arriving passengers feel welcome. For departing passengers, Gresham Smith developed a new gateway element that features a full color LED video display to greet customers on the road into the airport. A super graphic “Welcome Wall” feature, with imagery representative of the region, greets passengers as they transition from the airport to the curbside. Additionally both the overhead directional signs and parking garage identification are leveraged to promote the airport’s brand.

The new parking structure has achieved the airport’s goal of improving the parking experience for its customers by increasing safety, vehicular flow and overall comfort.


Kent County Department of Aeronautics


Grand Rapids, Michigan

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“Understanding the airport is often the first and last impression a visitor may have of our region, we are actively committed to remaining a key partner in furthering the exciting growth that is taking place. The newly completed parking structure is an enhancement to the overall airport visitor experience and specifically takes into consideration the extreme weather conditions in Western Michigan. The result is a beautiful structure which we hope our community is proud of.”

James A. Koslosky, A.A.E., Executive Director, Gerald R. Ford International Airport


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Wilson Rayfield, AIA, LEED AP
Wilson Rayfield, AIA, LEED AP
Executive Vice President, Aviation