NORTH ADAMS — The Northern Berkshires' only airport is slated to build a new $4.2 million administrative building — the first that will be accessible to the public.
Funded largely by a $4 million grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division — and matched by a $200,000 gift from land developer Harry Patten — the new $4.2 million building project at Harriman and West Airport was approved unanimously on Tuesday by the city's Airport Commission.
While technically an administrative office building, there will be amenities similar to what airline passengers think of as a terminal building. The facility is expected to house a restaurant, public restrooms and administrative office space.
The accelerated plans could be ready to go out to bid over the summer and shovels could hit the ground in August.
Currently, there is no publicly accessible space at the city-owned airport.
"When people need to go to the bathroom, sometimes I just let them into my office," said airport manager Bill Greenwald.
The commission had been hoping for a new building for several years, but the grant requires a 5 percent match from North Adams, a number the financially struggling city was unable to meet without outside help.
"It's been very difficult for me to be able to say I can commit that kind of money to this project, as much we wanted to," Alcombright said.
Greenwald approached Alcombright last year and said he may have found a solution in Patten, who is the director of Turboprop East, an aircraft maintenance company based at the airport.
"We're very fortunate that we've had a very generous offer from Mr. Harry Patten to help the city out with its share of the funding for that," said Airport Commission Chairman Jeffrey Naughton.
In return for his gift, Patten was given exclusive naming rights of the building, subject to the approval of the commission.
"The addition of the new airport administration/terminal building will be a great new resource to the Harriman West airport and help to grow air traffic to Northern Berkshire County," Patten said in a statement to The Eagle.
Patten was personal friends with local City Councilor Lottie Harriman, who advocated for the airport's construction decades ago and became its namesake. His business, Turboprop East, has been in business for more than 40 years and employs more than 15 people at the airport.
Mayor Richard Alcombright praised the new development and noted that some $30 million has been invested in the airport since 2001. That money has largely come from federal sources funded by fees on airline tickets, Commissioner Trevor Gilman added.
Recent improvements at the airport include a rebuilt runway, rebuilt taxiway and ramps, and the addition of instrument approach capabilities.