Five firms in running to build $46M museum expansion

New 224,000 square foot building to open to public in late 2015.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will select the winning bid late this year to construct a privately funded 224,000-square-foot building that will house rare, one-of-a kind of presidential and research and development aircraft, spacecraft and cargo planes. Bids are due Oct. 2.

“We know it will boost attendance,” said museum director John “Jack” Hudson, a retired Air Force lieutenant general. “We are confident that is going to be a big attraction.”

The competing firms are: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., of Greenbelt, Md.; M.A. Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis, Minn.; Turner Construction Co. of Washington, D.C.; Hensel Phelps of Chantilly, Va.; and Archer Western/Butt Construction (JV) of Chicago, Ill.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year and the new building — home to the Presidential, Research and Development, Space and Global Reach galleries — would open to the public in late 2015, according to the museum.

“The bottom line is we’re moving forward and we’re on track with our plans for the fourth building,” Hudson said.

Citing Federal Acquisition Regulations, the Army Corps of Engineers did not disclose the number of firms that applied to be considered among the final five. The selection evaluation board included Army Corps of Engineers and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees, the agency said in a response to questions from the Dayton Daily News.

The exact cost of the building won’t be known until the contract is awarded later this year, Hudson said. The Air Force Museum Foundation has raised $38 million to pay for the building, and will continue raising money once construction begins, said Mona Vollmer, the foundation’s chief development officer.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which will pick the winning bid, said the lowest priced bidder may not be the winning contractor. “The award will be made to the contractor whose proposal has been determined by the source selection evaluation board to have provided the best value to the government,” the federal agency said in an email.

As recently as 2011, museum officials had hoped the new hangar would open in mid-2014, but a tough fund-raising environment and environmental studies have pushed back the beginning of construction to next year.

The Air Force will relocate four presidential planes and numerous research and development aircraft to the main complex from a hangar of Area B on Wright-Patterson that is temporarily off limits to museum visitors. Automatic budget cuts canceled a shuttle bus service beginning on May 1.

Although supporters say the addition of a fourth building will increase attendance, no estimates were made available on how much of a bump is expected. Attendance has stayed steady around 1.2 million visitors a year, while visits to the museum website skyrocketed to 3.5 million last year compared to 1.5 million in 2010, figures show.

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