by Jesse Holth –
With a continued focus on local business and a bright new design, the Victoria International Airport has just completed Phase 1 of a $19.4 million project to expand and renovate the Departures area. Operational as of September 19, the Lower Passenger Departure Lounge took about 18 months to build: construction began in March 2018, with preliminary work starting in January 2018.
The 1,765-square-metre addition means passenger capacity has more than doubled, from 200 to 500, and the open-concept design features tons of natural light. “It’s created a very light and airy and contemporary space,” says Rod Hunchak, Director of Business Development and Community Relations. He notes that the colour palette is neutral, but also very “Vancouver Island” – skylights, lots of wood accents, and a variety of seating options. “We’re really proud that pretty much all of the seats have power running to them, so you’re never going to be looking for a power outlet to charge your iPad or your phone – we recognized early on that it was important to today’s travellers.”
They also opened a new concession, Fresh Cup Café at YYJ, offering coffee, espresso and specialty drinks, as well as a wide selection of snacks and pastries (including gluten-free items) and an array of B.C. wine, beer, cider and spirits. Fresh Cup, started by local Jim Townley, has expanded to a number of locations on the Island and the Lower Mainland – as independent craft coffee roasters, they use farmer-direct, single-origin, organic beans.
There are now seven dedicated aircraft gates instead of one common departure area, with distinct markers. Designating clear waiting areas was a major consideration, and each gate is now identified by a large wooden “monolith” – a primary design feature, with much-needed storage inside the columns for operational system equipment and items like wheelchairs. Rod says they’ve already received lots of positive feedback. “A passenger just today said it’s very open and calming – travelling can be a stressful situation. That’s one of the intentions: to lessen the stress, and make things clear and accessible. You can be sitting pretty much anywhere and [still] see your gate, and whether people are boarding – it just provides a level of comfort that you’re not going to miss your flight.”
In the spring, there will be a new public art piece installed in the space – a work called “Time Catcher,” by artist Charles Campbell, will be suspended from the ceiling. Covered walkways have also been constructed along both sides of the building, which will protect passengers from the elements: a must, in rainy Victoria. Rod says they’ve already commenced work on Phase 2 of the project, with half of the old waiting area blocked off. They’ll be creating new washroom facilities, including male, female, and gender-neutral options, as well as accessibility amenities and a pet-relief area.
“As part of Phase 2, we’ll also be introducing a new retail concession,” Rod notes. He says mum’s the word for now, but hints that it will build on the local flavour that they’ve already started with Fresh Cup and Spinnakers. “We’re looking at late spring to have the work complete, and then the final piece will be the Spinnakers restaurant expansion.” Rod says they’re very proud of the space that’s been created, and how much thought and planning went into the design. The project should be finished by the end of summer 2020.