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Southern Grounds, BurgerFi coming to Jacksonville International Airport

Popular restaurants Southern Grounds and BurgerFi are setting up shop at Jacksonville International Airport.

Hungry travelers soon will have an opportunity to grab a bite to eat or a cup of gourmet coffee at two new restaurants at Jacksonville International Airport.

Southern Grounds, a Jacksonville chef-driven coffee house, expects to debut this fall in Concourse A. And craft burger concept BurgerFi will open later in Concourse B in conjunction with construction of the new concourse, which is expected to open in 2022.

The addition of both Florida-based restaurants is part of a new 10-year contract valued at about $60 million that the Jacksonville Aviation Authority awarded to global restaurateur HMSHost, and its Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise joint venture partner Lee Wesley Group Inc.

The two restaurants announced Monday represent new additions to JIA’s offerings, said Greg Willis, marketing and public relations manager for JAA.

Officials announced the restaurant plans Monday in a news release.

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority to bring local businesses into the airport, especially one like Southern Grounds that has deep local roots and delivers a beloved community gathering place into the concourse,” said Stephen Douglas, vice president of business development for HMSHost. “With the upcoming opening, we’re sending travelers off with one last bite and sip of a hometown favorite.”

With restaurants already open in Neptune Beach and San Marco and a third planned for Avondale, Southern Grounds is known for collaborating with chefs and farmers around the Southeast as the restaurant crafts its menu items, which are locally sourced.

JIA travelers will be able to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks, pastries and other bakery goods when Southern Grounds opens. It also will offer gourmet coffee and teas.

The menu also will include artisan sandwiches, salads and tartines. There will be gluten-free, vegetarian and health-forward options for various eating preferences. In addition, there will be a selection of freshly prepared grab-and-go meal items, the news release said

“Traditionally, being in transit has been the least enjoyable part of travel. With our partnership with HMSHost and JAA, we aim to change that with a sense of community, great cup of coffee, and a relaxing customer-centric atmosphere,” Southern Grounds owner Mark Janasik said.

With locations already at Jacksonville’s Markets at Town Center and Brooklyn Station, BurgerFi offers craft burgers made from Angus beef with no antibiotics or hormones, hot dogs, shakes, custards and more.

Source: Florida Times-Union

Southern Grounds, BurgerFi to come to Jacksonville International Airport

Two Florida-based restaurants with strong Jacksonville-area ties are coming to the Jacksonville International Airport.

Southern Grounds will be coming to Concourse A this fall, according to a release from HMSHost.

BurgerFi will be located in Concourse B and its opening will coincide with the construction going on in Concourse B.

HMSHost said the two restaurants are part of a 10-year contract valued at approximately $60 million that the Jacksonville Aviation Authority awarded to global restaurateur HMSHost, and its Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise joint venture partner Lee Wesley Group Inc.

Southern Grounds will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, snacks, pastries and other bakery items, as well as gourmet coffee and teas. The menu includes artisan sandwiches, salads, and tartines, including gluten-free, vegetarian and health-forward options for various eating preferences, as well as freshly prepared grab-and-go items for those in a hurry.

The expansion in dining options comes as the airport continues to grow.

In March, Action News Jax first told you about plans to add a third concourse at the airport.

The JAA announced that it reached a record-high passenger count in 2019, as 7.2 million passengers flew through Jacksonville International Airport -- a 12 percent increase over 2018 when 6.4 million passengers traveled through JAX.

Source: Action News JAX

Southern Grounds, BurgerFi are coming to Jacksonville airport

Jacksonville-based Southern Grounds and Florida-based BurgerFi will coming to Jacksonville International Airport soon.

Southern Grounds will offer passengers local options for food and drink and is expected to open in Concourse A this fall while BurgerFi will occupy a to-be-determined location in Concourse B, which is expected to open by the end of 2022.

The two new locations are part of a new 10-year contract valued at approximately $60 million that the Jacksonville Aviation Authority awarded to global restaurateur HMSHost, and its Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) joint venture partner Lee Wesley Group Inc, the airport said in a news release.   

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority to bring local businesses into the airport, especially one like Southern Grounds that has deep local roots and delivers a beloved community gathering place into the concourse,” said Stephen Douglas, HMSHost vice president of business development. “With the upcoming opening, we’re sending travelers off with one last bite and sip of a hometown favorite.” 

HMSHost director of restaurant portfolio Eddie Silva told the Business Journal that they were hoping to bring offerings with local ties — and ones that differed from what is currently offered.

Silva said they examined behaviors of passengers to determine which concepts would be most successful and appeal to passengers in terms of variety, familiarity and speed of service.

"With BurgerFi, you have a Florida born company that has grown to national recognition and serves one of the most popular and ordered items for airport travelers – burgers," Silva said. "BurgerFi brings the growing demand for fast-casual, made-to-order custom burgers, chicken sandwiches and more to JAX travelers."

Firehouse Subs is the only other major local brand that is currently at the airport. However, Michael Stewart, external affairs director for the Jacksonville Aviation Authority said that as the airport develops Concourse B, they hope to incorporate more local brands.

"It's an attraction for travelers visiting the area," Stewart said. "It's also something that is trending in the airport industry, that airports show some local flavor in their concessions. It's good for local businesses, to help them grow and shows what Jacksonville has to offer."

Southern Grounds, which started in Neptune Beach, has been on a growth kick recently. In 2017, it opened a second location in San Marco and has plans for a third one Avondale. Earlier this month, it acquired a bakery.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal

Study: Jacksonville International is 2nd fastest growing airport in US

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) is the second fastest growing airport in the nation, according to a data study on passenger traffic.

The results of the study, which were posted Tuesday on, crunched the numbers from the 100 largest airports in the nation to find the 15 fastest growing airports by growth of passengers using data over a 10-year period.

According to the research, Jacksonville International had 16.05% growth from 2018 to 2017. The data shows 3,135,508 passengers moved through JAX in 2018, compared to 2,701,861 in 2017.

Researchers pointed to budget airlines like Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines adding flights to Jacksonville as a reason for some of the additional traffic.

Nashville International Airport was said to be the fastest growing airport in the United States, with a growth of 16.15% year-over-year. Pensacola International Airport came in third place on the list, seeing year-over-year growth of 15.83%.

Airport gears up for changes in 2020

Dec 31, 2019

Passengers will see a lot happening at Jacksonville International Airport in 2020 -- but most of it has nothing to do with the long-anticipated third concourse.

For starters, the construction on the parking garages will finish up, easing the demand for parking at the airport.

"It's been pretty intense during the holidays, but that garage will open up in February, and then will we start working on an economy lot for customers," said Mark VanLoh, CEO of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.

The moving walkways moving from the parking garages to the airport will also be completed.

"People tell me they've never seen it work," said VanLoh. "But it's been completely gutted."

The airport recently got new parts for the walkways and it is expected to be up and running by next summer, relieving one of the airports biggest complaints from passengers.

The baggage claim area will also be getting a makeover, sort of. The ceiling will receive new metal tiles and the lights will be replaced with LEDs, changes that VanLoh said are sorely needed.

"If you're standing in baggage claim with nothing to do, and you look up, the ceiling is horrible. It's got these old fabric panels, and I swear, those are cigarette smoke stains, and that's how old they are. I mean, they've been there forever," said VanLoh.

Work will begin on the Concourse B, but it isn't likely to be something that passengers will notice. Most of the work will be laying the ground work out in the airfield because the airport is starting the construction out and bringing it in, to avoid major disruption.

As a part of that construction, the Jax Club will be moved to a higher level. However, VanLoh says that the club is so popular, it would have likely needed to move in order to double in size anyway.

By Ellen Schneider  – Reporter, Jacksonville Business Journal

Nonstop flights to the West Coast and Europe from Jacksonville? Could happen by 2022

January 1, 2020

Improvements are coming to the Jacksonville International Airport in 2020, and they won’t stop there.

By the year 2022, a new $200 million concourse project is expected to be complete, and it could pave the way for nonstop flights to the West Coast and Europe. 

“I think that will be very helpful, and I think that that could be a lot more convenient for people of the Jacksonville area,” said JIA traveler, Samantha Rylicki. 

2018 was a record setting year for JIA when it comes to people flying in and out of the airport. 

“There’s a reason we’re building Concourse B,” said JAA CEO Mark Vanloh. “Those six additional gates will get us more flights.” 

Vanloh tells us the goal is to bring in nonstop flights to coveted destinations. 

“That’s what we’re looking for, nonstop. Everybody has to go to a hub nowadays to change planes,” he said. “We know we need nonstop service to the West Coast. LA, San Francisco, Seattle.” 

Vanloh said we may even see flights to Europe in the future. He tells us the details of the concourse, and the flights it could bring in, are being solidified. 

“These, of course, are goals,” he said. “There’s nothing definite in the airline industry, it’s all depending on our economy, and of course Jacksonville’s economy is booming right now.” 

We’re told construction for Concourse B could begin by the end of 2020, and would likely happen in the third or fourth quarter of this year, after the bidding process. 

Also by the end of this coming year, travelers will see new, healthier food options, a new ceiling with LED lighting above baggage claim and 300-400 spaces in the parking garages are expected to be available yet again by late January or mid-February, once certain garage improvements are complete. 

A JIA spokesperson tells us moving walkways extending from the garages to the terminal are also expected to be finished by the end of 2020.

By: Ryan Nelson

Press Releases

Jacksonville’s Cecil Spaceport is counting down to ‘liftoff’

The former Navy jet base is ahead of the game with continued progress into commercial space development and expects to begin launching into orbit within the year.

The plans for Cecil Spaceport have long been in the making, but there’s been little visible progress of space operations at the former U.S. naval air station on Jacksonville’s Westside. But 2020 promises to be a threshold year, according to officials overseeing the development.

“2020 is a big year,” said Todd Lindner, director of Cecil Spaceport since March 2017 for the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. Lindner, who is also a pilot, has been connected to Spaceport plans since 2006 and understands some of the skepticism.

But 2019 saw the addition of aerospace contractor Aevum Inc. for space vehicle development. The company, based in Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $4.9 million contract from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems center to launch small satellites to low earth orbit from Cecil Spaceport, which is a “horizontal” launch point.

That’s the kind of launches similar to airplanes that take off from runways as opposed to “vertical” launch vehicles that take off from launch pads at Cape Canaveral.

Aevum’s project will eventually launch Department of Defense Space Test Program missions. Aevum joins Generation Orbit, a contractor that’s already been working on projects at the Cecil Spaceport since 2014.

Engine testing for spacecraft has already taken place at Cecil, with this year expected to see more and possibly some launches. In January, the U.S. Air Force Research laboratory completed an engine firing test at the facility. The testing of the X-60A engine was on-ground, meaning it did not take flight. But the firing of the single-stage rocket engine is hypersonic and is designed to reach Mach 5 speeds. It was tested under the oversight of Generation Orbit, JAA officials said.

Lindner said much of the activity will ultimately be determined by the Federal Aviation Administration. But the next year will bring action.

“You’re going to see some actualization,” Lindner said. “It’s still in its infancy. FAA is not going to let anything to occur that could potentially harm the non-participating public.”

In 2020 the federal government is working toward more contracts beyond what have been awarded. But the initial space flights will be substantial from existing contractors, Lindner said.

“They will be taking an aircraft with a rocket attached to it and flying it through our flight corridor and operating range over the Atlantic Ocean and releasing that rocket. It will ignite and it will go,” Lindner said.

Cecil Spaceport is not on its own in terms of oversight from the JAA, and the physical facilities are changing rapidly. There are multiple governmental entities seeking to see the spaceport succeed, Lindner said. Beyond the contractors, the “partners” include Space Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation and FAA among others.

The operations control center is a $1.8 million facility along with another $7 million for the air traffic control tower — both are being finalized. FDOT, FAA and Space Florida are combining forces to cover those costs, Lindner said.

“We have the infrastructure in place right now to accommodate operations,” Lindner said, noting the Spaceport will also be adding facilities as contractors need them for specific purposes and that process is will likely undergo multiple modifications.

Aaron Bowman, senior vice president of business development for JAX Chamber, said the First Coast has always had a solid association with the aerospace industry due to the presence of multiple military installations. But the Spaceport will be key to taking it further.

“I think it’s going to be very important,” said Bowman, former commander of Naval Station Mayport and a current Jacksonville city councilman. He said much of the space development will involve “nano satellite launching” which takes payloads into low orbit and they disintegrate upon re-entry.

“That means once companies and governments sending satellites into low orbit, if they want to maintain that capability, they will have to replace them,” Bowman said. “As far as Cecil, we’ll be one of the few on the eastern seaboard.”

Commercial spaceports are in the very infancy of development. But it’s clear that Cape Canaveral will no longer have a monopoly on space transportation development. There is already competition for developments of spaceports elsewhere.

Beyond Cecil, Camden County, Ga., is already vying for its own space transportation facility. The county announced in December it is completing its FAA application to build a commercial space launch site. The Camden County Commission said plans are being modified for smaller space vehicles.

Camden County Administrator Steve Howard said while the county has been angling for commercial space development for a couple of years, it’s best to remain versatile in the commercial space race.

“The space industry has progressed dramatically since we started this process,” Howard said. “Smaller launch vehicles and small internet and defense satellites have become far and away the biggest market segment for Spaceport Camden.”

It’s not clear how long Camden County’s FAA application and modified plans will take to process before the aviation agency makes a decision.

Fortunately for Cecil Spaceport, Jacksonville’s interests have been long running and they have a jump on the game, said JAA CEO Mark VanLoh.

“When I first came to Jacksonville [in 2018], I thought ‘Well that’s a nice gimmick,’” VanLoh said. “And all of the sudden I see and have met some of the CEOs of some of these companies and they’re serious. ... This is happening.”

Ultimately, it’s taken about 20 years to get commerce running on levels on the 17,000 acres of Cecil where the U.S. Navy turned the property over to the city. The Spaceport will help keep that at a high level, Bowman said.

“Building buildings out there is certainly exciting to me and we’ll be giving them leases. These are all going to be high-wage jobs,” Bowman said.

Spaceport could help raise the profile of Cecil, and Bowman said it’s a profile that’s been sorely overlooked.

“Many don’t give us enough credit for the aerospace that we’ve got... Now you’ve got some great options,” Bowman said. “It gives us another leg of the stool because now we’ve got this whole other industry out there. It’s a big deal.”

VanLoh acknowledged it’s hard to put a price tag on Spaceport development.

“It’s important to JAA because we were one of the first to be designated a Spaceport,” VanLoh said. “The technology has caught up. The commercial part of this has started to realize how important this is. We can’t just rely on NASA and the military to put commercial objects in orbit.”

Private industry can do it faster, efficiently and more affordably, VanLoh said.

“It’s another one of those feathers in the cap,” VanLoh said. “We want companies to relocate here for the business. Cecil is one of those assets.”

The Cecil Spaceport itself only employs about a dozen people on staff, Lindner said. Then more specialists will be hired, but it will remain a limited staff. The contractors themselves will be the big boost in employment, potentially bringing in as many as 300 workers for each company.

That’s going to be on top of about 3,400 people a day working at the Cecil industrial area for various commercial entities not associated with Spaceport.

“The bulk of economic impact is going to come from the support industries,” Lindner said ”... Payload preparation, people who are building the payloads, materials people, liquid oxygen, propellant and oxidizer industry, manufacturing, that’s going to be a huge part of the industry as well. I don’t see ours or any spaceport for that matter making a majority of their revenue from the launches themselves.”