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Lansing officials hope to market Ford Hangar after renovation


Renovations to the Ford Hangar at Lansing Municipal Airport will begin within the next few years as village officials discuss plans and funding sources.

Ken Reynolds, venue operations manager, said village officials want the Ford Hangar to become an event space, which would require roof replacement, climate control and bathrooms.

The Ford Hangar has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985, which means any renovations must be carefully planned and approved by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Reynolds said.

“We have to make sure that the integrity and the hangar is preserved in as much of its original condition as possible,” Reynolds said. “We have to keep in mind the original structure and the original building.”

Ford Hangar at Lansing Municipal Airport in 2018. The hangar was built in the 1920s and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown)

Until a few years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration required any event at the Ford Hangar to have an aviation affiliation, Reynolds said. When that rule changed, village officials began hosting events, Reynolds said.

The village’s 125th anniversary celebration was held at the hangar in 2018, Reynolds said. Since then, events have included economic summits, weddings, fundraisers and youth choir meetings.

People want to rent the hangar for birthday parties or high school dance photo shoots, Reynolds said.

“The appeal and where we are going with this is that everyone wants to be in a unique venue,” Reynolds said. “This uniqueness is what attracts people and, of course, history.”

Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam, who researched the airport extensively when she was president of the Lansing Historical Society, said automaker legend Henry Ford purchased 1,400 acres for the airport in 1925.

Work on the Ford Hangar began in January 1926 and was built within a year, Eidam said. He said American Airlines used part of it as a passenger terminal from 1928 to 1933 before moving its terminal to Midway Airport in Chicago.

There are no middle support beams in the architecture, and the rails that enable the hangar doors and windows to open and close wrap around the inside of the building. The windows are divided into rectangles, and within each rectangle are smaller rectangles.

The Village Board is discussing granting a liquor license to the Ford Hangar to attract more events.

The village flexes the license of the Fox Pointe amphitheater downtown to the hangar when an event is held there, and then all the supplies are transferred, Reynolds said. According to the board’s statement, a $150 fee is paid to the state each time this occurs.

Trustee Saad Abbasy said he supports a liquor license for the hangar so the village can manage its liquor license and consumption.

Officials said the Ford Hanger's architecture was innovative for its time and lacked center support beams.  Rails used to open and close hangar doors and windows wrap around the inside of the building.  (Alexandra Kukulka/Daily Southtown)

Alexandra Kukulka / Daily Southtown

Officials said the Ford Hanger’s architecture was innovative for its time and lacked center support beams. Rails used to open and close hangar doors and windows wrap around the inside of the building. (Alexandra Kukulka/Daily Southtown)

Reynolds said the hangar’s roof will be repaired this spring and will be paid for with a $500,000 grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Reynolds said the roof repair could shorten what he calls the “Hangar 101 talk,” in which he tells potential tenants to be prepared for leaks in case it rains.

The village also wants to replace windows and do more masonry, Reynolds said. Reynolds said some masonry work has been done to restore the structure in recent years.

“It is an old building that has been in the middle of nature for 100 years. “So making sure it’s structurally safe — which it is — but reapplying those,” Reynolds said.

Village officials are trying to figure out how to implement climate control, Reynolds said. One preliminary idea is to build a structure that would aid climate control indoors without disrupting the exterior.

Reynolds said Chicago’s Soldier Field design is an example of a new stadium being built inside historic columns.

“Imagine if an idea like this would allow us to keep the temperature under control and shut it down,” Reynolds said.

Village officials also want to build an annex for bathrooms, Reynolds said. When space is rented for events, the landlord must provide portable bathrooms, he said.

The addition could be built on the west side of the building, Reynolds said.

Reynolds said plans for climate control and additional space are only being discussed, while roof and structural renovations are further along.

Abbasy said most of the discussion about the hangar right now is about making sure the space is usable. The most important thing, he said, is to ensure that any work done ensures that the building is recognized as a historical landmark.

“Being able to maintain that and make it friendly for guests is exciting for the future of the venue,” Abbasy said.

To fund the study, Reynolds said village officials are doing research, applying for grants and considering village funding, which the Village Board must approve.

“This is a multi-year thing. “The amount of money needed to get it as modern as possible is going to be significant, but it’s going to be a matter of getting there gradually,” Reynolds said.


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