Gainesville Regional Airport celebrated the official opening of an access road connecting Waldo Road just north of 39th Avenue to the airport’s terminal on March 18.
The road has been officially named the Major General John R. Alison Avenue by the Gainesville Alachua County Regional Airport Authority. The late Alison, Micanopy-born and UF-educated, served as a WWII flying ace and military tactician, assistant secretary of commerce, major general of the Air Force Reserve and is enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
John Alison, Alison’s nephew, said that the family was honored by the newly dedicated road and that it serves as a permanent tie to Gainesville. Other family guests included his nephew Tom Alison and niece Margaret Wiles and great-nephew Santiago Wiles.
Construction on the road and 40 acres surrounding it began in late 2011 by Whitehurst Construction of Williston. Phase II began in late 2012 and was done by Hipp Construction of Alachua. The total cost of the new road was $2.5 million and was paid for primarily through state and federal grants, while the airport covered about $50,000.
The 40 acres of developable land is zoned business/light industrial. Potential uses include an airport hotel, restaurant, corporate offices, aviation-related business, manufacturing and industrial uses along with some retail. A new entrance sign is pending approval from city officials.
GNV CEO Allan Penska said that the access road has been on the airport’s master plan since 1989, and the board decided to move ahead with the construction in 2011 because the funds became available.
“As the airport developed we knew we were going to need additional access,” Penska said. “We’re trying to make the most of the land available and diversify our revenues. The aviation business can go up and down, so we’re trying to smooth some of that out. There are options for commercial developments and restaurants down there; things I think would be welcome here in East Gainesville.”
Penska said that the airport is in very early stages for development along the new access road and that the board would have to prioritize the types of business they want to see come in. The plan has always been to lease the land, not sell, he said. He also noted that in the master plan was a goal to add development to the east side of the terminal in the form of an aviation industrial park with light manufacturing and offices.
“We’re not just after revenue,” he said. “We want to add something to the community with new business and employment.”