Future of iconic airport dome uncertain
The iconic geodesic dome that stands across from T.F. Green on Airport Road may soon be a thing of the past, according to Peter Frazier, interim president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC).
Frazier said yesterday that RIAC would be working in conjunction with brokers to send out a Request For Proposal, or RFP, for the property within the next week. He hopes they’ll have a finalized plan for the property come the spring.*
*CORRECTION: The RFP will be used to hire a real estate broker. Once they have secured a broker, RIAC will work in conjunction with them to assess their various properties, which in turn, may lead to another RFP.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) owns the building, and has since it was built in the early 1960s. But the dome falls under the 1993 Master Lease between RIDOT and RIAC, which gives RIAC control of the property until the lease runs out in June of 2038.
Frazier said the fate of the dome, which was erected in 1962, was uncertain when airport expansion plans included the movement of Airport Road. But now that Airport Road will remain where it is, Frazier said RIAC is looking to sell or lease the property on which the dome stands.
That’s not good news for the dome, a semi-enclosed storage base that many compare to Spaceship Earth in Disney World’s Epcot theme park. The dome’s roughly 40-foot height and 140-foot diameter have made it a landmark, but because of the specificity of the structure, Frazier said there’s a “high potential” the dome will be demolished to make way for something new.
The dome was initially used to shelter T.F. Green’s airfield snow removal equipment. The late Eugene Castellucci, of the architectural firm Castellucci Galli Corporation, designed the structure, which was the first geodesic dome in the state. It sits on a 5.44-acre parcel of land that also includes the former Airfield Maintenance Facility and Airfield Maintenance Administrative Offices for T.F. Green. A new Airfield Maintenance Facility on the airport property was opened in 2008, and the facilities formerly housed on the dome parcel were relocated. Those buildings and the dome have since been vacant.
Frazier said the property could be used for aviation or commercial purposes, and a restaurant or office building might soon replace the structure that’s been standing on Airport Road for 50 years. Zoning will ultimately come in to play, but Frazier said RIAC will work in conjunction with an aviation planner to determine what would be a good fit for the land, given the close proximity to the runway.