PHOENIX-The City of Phoenix will start construction within a year on a $250-million facility near Sky Harbor International Airport. The idea is to deliver a consolidated site for vehicle rental companies and free up space for airline expansion.

Phoenix plans to build a 200,000-sf building for 15 major vehicle rental companies, a two-level parking garage for 6,000 ready-to-rent vehicles and a parking lot for another 17,000 rentals. The facility will be built on 135 acres at the southeast corner of Buckeye Road and 16th Street.

“It’s to consolidate all of the critical functions of our car rental operations into one location,” Cindy Lizarraga, land development administrator for Phoenix’s aviation department, tells “It will give us space to redevelop the terminal for other higher uses and that opens it up for airlines to expand their operations.”

Sky Harbor International Airport is the sixth-busiest vehicle rental location in the country. It has a fleet of more than 40,000 vehicles standing ready for travelers.

The project is going up in the city-owned Sky Harbor Industrial Park, a business park bound by 16th, 24th and Harrison streets and Interstate 10. The park, assembled more than a decade ago, also houses a large Bank of America call center.

Some 1,500 parking spaces, now used by 10 airport rental companies, will become available for public use when the project is completed. The rental companies will relocate from areas in terminals two, three and four. And, the move will eliminate a number of vehicles from the crowded streets leading into the airport, including rental company vans, rental vehicles being dropped off and subsequent shuttling to a 1,500-space area in the parking garage.

Lizarraga says the companies also hope to shave some overhead and make it easier for customers to navigate to and from their facilities with the centralization. “They all compete against each other, and they don’t get along with each other, but they have come together as an industry to say that this is the next step,” she says. The city will dedicate a buses for shuttling travelers between the airport and the rental facility.

Phoenix-based Transystems Corp. has designed the 200,000-sf car rental facility, which will have a generous lobby area, and complementary parking structure. There also will be an area for cleaning and servicing the rental vehicles.

The project will be out for bid within a year and operational by fall 2004, says Lizarraga. It’s not been determined if the city will use performance-based selection or low cost for the contractor’s selection. The $250-million price tag includes bus acquisitions and other non-construction costs.

Rental companies will be signing leases for their spots, but council also has yet to decide the fine details. What will happen is that the city, in keeping with other airport leases, will collect a percentage of monthly gross revenues from the rental companies. The city currently taps 10% of the take for airport tenants.

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