It’s been a campaign stopover for American presidents, an air cargo hub, a launch pad for daily commuter flights, a stage for countless spectacular precision air shows, an educational facility and a landing site for aircraft, large and small. Busy little Smith Reynolds Airport is an underappreciated gem in the City of Arts and Innovation.
A $7 million renovation project approved recently by Forsyth County commissioners may elevate its status and bring new commercial opportunities.
The airport’s terminal building is scheduled for this major renovation project, which will update its infrastructure — adding heating and air conditioning systems as well as an elevator, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported last week. The project is likely to take up to 30 months, and when the renovation is complete, Signature Flight Support, a fixed-based operator, plans to move in, airport director Mark Davison recently told the commissioners. It’s all part of a 20-year capital improvement program that could bring the airport greater prominence and success.
The terminal renovation will be financed by limited-obligation bonds that will be paid off from airport revenues.
The terminal building’s main lobby currently features a colorful stained glass window with an aeronautic theme and a historic mural originally painted in 1942 by Charles Augustus Jenkins. There’s also an engraved monument to the man after whom the airport is named, Zachary Smith Reynolds, an accomplished pilot. We hope these decorations will be retained.
Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce Architects, which did the design work for the attractive Union Station railway terminal, completed in 2019, has been selected to provide architectural and engineering services. We have confidence that the firm will to do the airport right.
The terminal building renovation is only one component of what’s happening at the airport. A $17 million project currently in the works includes removing a hangar, renovating another and building two new hangars. And Forsyth Technical Community College is nearing completion of a $16 million aviation campus nearby where students can train for careers as aircraft technicians and mechanics at companies based at the airport.
With all this activity, the airport must have a flashy terminal building.
In related news, Piedmont Triad International Airport is seeking art by local artists to display in its terminal. Perhaps Smith Reynolds could also provide display opportunities for local artists.
Smith Reynolds Airport was once the busiest airport in the state, but Piedmont Triad International Airport — known in the 1970s as Greensboro Regional Airport — did away with that. But our airport has a lot of potential for a comeback. It’s adjacent to U.S. 52, a couple of miles from downtown and just across the highway from R.J. Reynolds Whitaker Park Plant, which is being developed for potential business opportunities. This is a part of town that could flourish as other parts have, including downtown and the Innovation Quarter. Community leaders have been studying such possibilities, as well as looking into how to attract drones, vertical take-off and landing vehicles and other new technologies, the Journal reported.
Smith Reynolds Airport could be one of several prominent “front doors” that give visitors their first glimpse of our city. Others include U.S. 52, with its broad view of the Innovation Quarter and Salem Parkway, currently ornamented with unique bridges, including the two pedestrian bridges that were opened recently. It seems far off now, but Union Station may one day join them, if rail travel ever returns to us.
Putting our best foot forward to all travelers is a good way to increase commerce and tourism, as well as civic pride.