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Orr stumps for Charlotte World Trade Center at airport

Charlotte Aviation Director Jerry Orr sought to drum up support for the Charlotte World Trade Center on Thursday, offering new details about a project he says would attract international businesses and advanced manufacturing.

And at the monthly Airport Advisory Committee meeting, officials also said they plan to gradually add 2,000 more long-term parking spaces near Little Rock Road. But it wasn’t clear those will be finished in time to relieve this summer’s parking shortage, caused by airport construction.

The Charlotte World Trade Center building would house offices for international businesses, an auditorium, laboratories and facilities for business people to meet with financiers from Charlotte.

“When Rome was the center of the world, they said all roads lead to Rome,” Orr told the Airport Advisory Committee. “We thought that was transposable to Charlotte.”

Orr said the center would be a two-story building on a 300-acre site that now holds the former East Coast Bible College, across Wilkinson Boulevard from the airport.

“We could build a 300,000- to 400,000-square-foot building there if we find the tenants,” Orr said. The goal would be to spur investment from light manufacturers and other businesses that would use the airport and new intermodal rail yard to ship their products.

Many details still need to be worked out. Orr said the airport would fund the World Trade Center, but didn’t give an estimate of the cost or an exact funding source. No timeline for building the center has been set yet.

Parking challenges remain

Construction on a new hourly parking deck at Charlotte Douglas has led to a parking shortage this summer, since the airport tore down the two hourly decks in front of the terminal, along with 3,500 spaces.

The new decks, which will total 7,500 spaces and bring the total at the airport to almost 29,000, won’t open until November 2014.

Thursday, the advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend awarding a $399,235 contract to Talbert, Bright & Ellington for design work on new long-term parking spaces.

Orr said the 2,000 additional spaces will be paved on land near the airport’s new entrance road at Little Rock Road. Land freed up by re-routing the road will be used for the parking, Orr said.

When asked when the parking spaces would be ready, Orr quipped, “We would love to have them at 9 o’clock in the morning.” He clarified that the new spaces will start becoming available this fall and will “come online incrementally.”

And Orr, 72, remained quiet Thursday on the subject of whether he plans to retire soon.

“I don’t plan further than 24 hours in advance,” he said.

Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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