BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — The city is seeking proposals for a new, two-story building at Beverly Municipal Airport that would include a restaurant, a pilot’s lounge and a small aviation museum.
Officials said the project, which could cost in the $2.5 million range if it comes to fruition, would attract more people to the city-owned airport.
“Every successful airport has a successful restaurant,” Beverly Airport Commission Chairman Paul Vitale said. “It goes hand in hand.”
The winning bidder would demolish a current airport building that houses six businesses, including the Something Different Cafe.
In its place would go a two-story building that would include a restaurant with 50 to 100 seats, a pilot’s lounge with round-the-clock access, a 400-square-foot aviation museum, and a public restroom. The rest of the building would be divided into rental offices.
Vitale said the city issued the request for proposals because the lease for the current building expires in July. The building was built as a barracks for Navy pilots who were training at the airport during World War II and is in poor condition, he said.
“We’re hoping to attract some major players up there to tear down the building and build a new building,” Vitale said.
Vitale said a restaurant will be attractive to executives who fly into Beverly on corporate aircraft as well as recreational pilots who like to fly from airport to airport. It would also draw customers from Beverly and surrounding towns, he said.
The city’s request for proposals requires a new restaurant to be open at least 12 hours per day, six days per week. The Something Different Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Something Different owner Linda McCarthy, who has the lease for the current building and has run the cafe for 14 years, said she doubts that a new restaurant would help the airport.
“It would be nice, but it’s not going to make people come here,” she said.
Vitale said the businesses in the current building, including Something Different, can remain as tenants-at-will until the new project begins. The building also houses a pool company, a sign company, and a doctor who conducts medical exams of pilots.
The request for proposals said the city will give a rating of “highly advantageous” to proposals that call for an investment of least $2.5 million.
Mayor Bill Scanlon said the impetus for the new plan came from the Beverly Airport Commission, a group of volunteers who oversee the operation of the airport.
“They’re always trying to make the airport better, and they think this is what good airports need,” Scanlon said. “If we find somebody who’s ready to do this, I think it’ll be very interesting. It’s not clear what we’ll get for a response.”
The developer of the building would lease the land from the city and make payments to the Airport Commission. The airport’s finances are self-sustaining through revenues generated at the airport, which averages 60,000 takeoffs and landings per year.
The airport’s website said a recent survey showed that Beverly Airport generates about $14 million per year in economic activity in the local area.
The Federal Aviation Administration was scheduled to close the control tower at the airport, along with 148 others around the country, in June due to budget cuts. The closure has been delayed until September. Airport officials have said planes can still operate safely without the tower through communication among pilots.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.