Gary airport

A business jet flies over the Indiana Toll Road as it lands at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. 

Times file photo

GARY — Visitors to Gary/Chicago International Airport will pass through newly landscaped grounds after a $90,000 project to plant 80 shade trees, 400 shrubs and native grasses and wildflowers is complete next spring.

The airport board approved a contract Wednesday with Hubinger Landscaping of Crown Point to do the work, which will include installation of river rock and stone outcroppings, as well as the plant-life, from the airport entrance through the areas adjacent to the road to the terminal and the two fixed-base operator facilities. Islands in the terminal parking lot will also be landscaped.

"It's been roughly 20 years since a landscaping improvement has been conducted at the airport," Executive Director Dan Vicari said. "We're looking at a complete overhaul."

He said the work will complement the reconstruction of Airport Road and the upcoming installation of wayfaring signage to upgrade the airport's image to visitors. The project will begin this fall and be completed in the spring.

Also Wednesday, the board authorized airport administrators to enter negotiations with Lee Companies of Gary to be construction manager for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility planned for the airport.

Lee, which has also worked on expansion projects for Gary Jet Center, one of the airport's fixed-base operators, scored highest among six firms proposing to manage the customs project.

The construction manager will serve as the airport's agent in managing the project to transform a vacant portion of the building that houses the airport's rescue and firefighting building. Customs and Border Protection approved the airport's facility plan in August.

The customs facility will allow the airport to service international flights. Airport officials want the new facility to open early next year.

"We're turning down business because we don't have customs available here now," Vicari said.

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Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.