Kent County Department of Aeronautics


Grand Rapids, MI


Architecture, Interior Design, Experiential Design and Wayfinding, Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering, MEP Engineering

Due to significant growth, Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) sought 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 projected growth. Following its completion, the airport again hired Gresham Smith to design a new parking structure, which improves the parking experience for customers by increasing safety, vehicular glow and overall comfort.

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.

view of Gerald R. Ford International Airport parking garage from under curbside canopy

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 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