The city of Tuscaloosa authorized mayor Walt Maddox to "do all things necessary" to acquire 100 acres of land adjacent to the Tuscaloosa National Airport to facilitate future expansions there Tuesday night.

Jeff Powell, the Manager of the Airport, told the Thread that efforts are constantly underway to find funding for the expansion and improvement of the facility there.

One such measure, which is included in the Airport Master Plan the city released last year, calls for the expansion of the airport's main runway from its current length of 6,500 feet to 7,600 feet.

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The 1,100 foot expansion may seem like a small task, but Powell said moving dirt to level the land and then lengthening the runway in a way that meets standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration will likely cost somewhere around $25 million.

The good news, Powell said, is that grants are available that could optimistically fund up to 95 percent of the project's cost, leaving the city and state to put together a more manageable sum -- somewhere between $1.25 million and $2.5 million -- in matching funds for the project.

None of that has been set in stone yet, and proponents of expanding the airport are still lobbying for federal funds to do so.

Still, expansion requires more space, and Powell said pre-existing developments mean that the only direction in which the airport could reasonably grow is into undeveloped land to the south and west of its runway.

Almost all that land, from the border of the city's existing property to the banks of the Black Warrior River, is owned by a development group called 1871, LLC.

1871 was created in 2017 by Wilson Moore of Pritchett-Moore Real Estate, Tim Harrison of Harrison Construction and Ron Turner, a longtime area businessman.

Their efforts have primarily been focused on purchasing and clearing land north of the airport off McFarland Boulevard for restaurant and retail development, where the Northport ALDI grocery store opened in April.

1871 has also acquired more than 20 parcels of land directly adjacent to the airport, though, and those properties range in size from a fraction of a single acre to one parcel southwest of the airport past Joe Mellisham Parkway that is 107 acres on its own.

The city will now enter negotiations to purchase 101.99 of that land after a unanimous vote of the council Tuesday night, which Powell said will allow for planned and future expansions at the airport and also ensure no new development is made on those properties that would hinder future projects there.

A city spokesperson said no final price for the purchase has been settled on and will not be finalized until the deal is ready to close.

For more updates on development at the airport and city government action, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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