With continued and rapid growth at Tampa International Airport, TPA aims to stay ahead of the curve to avoid overcrowding and congestion, and our long-term client Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (HCAA) is continually looking for creative solutions. In lieu of building a brand-new terminal, which our team has modernized and upgraded, the airport developed a multiyear, phased plan to reduce congestion and increase capacity.

The first phase included a remote consolidated Rental Car Center (RCC) connected to the main terminal 1.5 miles away via the new SkyConnect Automated People Mover (APM) to reduce vehicular traffic at the terminal. Gresham Smith was the prime design consultant for both the RCC and the SkyConnect APM. Expansion of the curbsides at the main terminal was made possible by relocating the rental car functions from the main terminal to the RCC, and by relocating the Aviation Authority’s administrative offices to a new remote location.

The next phase included the development of a Commercial Real Estate (CRE) plan for SkyCenter, utilizing land formerly occupied by rental car maintenance facilities which were vacated upon completion of the RCC and allowing the land to be repurposed for future commercial and airport operations expansion. Gresham Smith assisted the airport developing the CRE master plan which will support the development of new office buildings, hotels, retail and a new remote curbside and cellphone lot with improved customer facilities.


Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (Tampa International Airport)


Tampa, FL

Project Type





square-foot planted terrace


foot pedestrian bridge

Decentralizing for the Future

Decentralizing for the Future

By establishing the SkyCenter development plan, HCAA was able to plan for the relocation of their administrative headquarter offices into a new office building and free up space for more critical airport operations at the main terminal complex. Gresham Smith played an essential role in the implementation of the SkyCenter plan, helping to engage a developer and design builder to develop SkyCenter One, the first nine-story office building at SkyCenter, which houses three floors of Aviation Authority administrative offices. The Gresham Smith team also developed the programming and preliminary design of the Aviation Authority offices within the SkyCenter One office building, including the new Network Operations Center (NOC), Airport Operations Center (AOC) and Aviation Authority Board Room.
The Nerve Center

The Nerve Center

Gresham Smith was engaged to be the lead design consultant for the implementation of SkyCenter site improvements.

This pivotal piece of infrastructure included:

  • The atrium—intended to be the hub of connectivity for the SkyCenter development. At over 50,000 square feet, the atrium connects the SkyCenter One office building with a future ‘flagship’ hotel, and also includes a variety of workstations and seating arrangements for travelers on the go. The atrium also provides vertical circulation, which connects new remote curbside, enclosed pedestrian bridge and a rooftop with 17,000-plus square feet of planted terrace, which is an amenity for the adjoining office building that offers unmatched views of the TPA airfield and the waters of Tampa Bay.
  • A relocated and enlarged cellphone lot, which includes improved restrooms, landscaping and multiple enlarged digital displays.
  • Overall site planning for future hotels, retail and office buildings, utility planning, landscaping and signage for SkyCenter. The site planning also include a 1-mile exercise trail that wraps the SkyCenter perimeter.

Connecting the “Aerotropolis”

Connecting the “Aerotropolis”

Spanning over four lanes of traffic, the pedestrian bridge connects the atrium to the RCC. It offers SkyCenter tenants and travelers immediate access to the SkyConnect train for a short ride to TPA’s main terminal and access to the public bus curbside at the RCC.
Strengthening the Weak Link

Strengthening the Weak Link

In lieu of picking up or dropping off at the main terminal curbside, which can be busy during peak times, the airport’s remote curbside offers yet another way for passengers to access TPA. At 600 feet in length and three lanes wide, the new curbside location adds capacity to help TPA keep up with traffic and provides a pickup and drop-off point for off-campus parking and rental car shuttle buses. This location provides a “Plan B” should there be a traffic bottleneck at the main terminal. Customers utilizing the RCC, SkyCenter and the remote curbside have the added benefit of also being able to check bags remotely at the RCC.
Evolution of the Airport Model

Evolution of the Airport Model

The SkyCenter project is part of the ongoing plan to continuously optimize and extend the shelf life of the main terminal by utilizing remote and underutilized land, and leveraging connectivity to the main terminal via the SkyConnect train system. Creating improvements for the present, as well as accommodating expansion and future growth, the SkyCenter development brings TPA’s vision of a highly connected airport city to fruition. The SkyCenter development—anchored by the atrium and connected via the pedestrian bridge to the SkyConnect train—affords HCAA opportunities to diversify their revenue sources while simultaneously expanding offerings to customers and Tampa Bay. Construction of the SkyCenter was completed in 2021


Project Contact

Our team designs with genuine care for ingenious solutions.

Design with us.

Grant Clifford, RIBA, LEED AP
Grant Clifford, RIBA, LEED AP
Senior Vice President