The hundreds of jets that take off and land every day at Van Nuys Airport pass a string of aging, nondescript hangars that line its perimeter.

Most of the unexceptional buildings, home to nearly 1,000 private and corporate jets, have sat unimproved for decades even as airport traffic accelerated and the general aviation industry modernized.

Now, some of those outdated and cramped facilities are about to be razed as one of the airport's charter jet providers builds a modern, chic terminal that stands to usher in a new era of construction at Van Nuys.

Elite Aviation LLC hopes to break ground soon on a $30-million-facility designed by a prominent architecture firm that would cater to the airport's predominantly wealthy clientele, including celebrities and business executives. The angular design is based on origami cranes, and is a far cry from the beige boxes that currently populate the airport.

"There isn't any other physical entity at Van Nuys Airport that comes close to what ours will look like," said Neil Shaw, executive vice president of Elite Aviation. "There hasn't been any real showcase (terminal) at the airport."

The project, which is still pending approval from the city and airport authority, would not only be among the airport's most upscale facilities but would be the first new jet terminal constructed in Van Nuys in almost two decades.

Meanwhile, several other high-profile airport tenants, including Maguire Aviation Inc., are redeveloping properties or making plans to upgrade and expand facilities. And within the next few weeks, officials hope to begin seeking developers for one of the airport's few remaining undeveloped parcels.

Indeed, Van Nuys is experiencing a development renaissance unlike anything seen in decades at the general aviation airport.

"What we're seeing is an industry that's being driven by the natural growth in the economy, and the increased demand in point-to-point aircraft travel and all of that creates fairly rapidly growing demand at Van Nuys Airport," said Robert Rodine, principal for the business consulting company Polaris Group, which has conducted economic assessments for airport owner Los Angeles World Airports, a city agency.

Growing industry

With about 400,000 takeoffs and landings each year, Van Nuys is the busiest general aviation airport in the world and a major hub for private air travel in Southern California.

The airport also is home to more than 100 businesses including aircraft managers, jet charter companies, fuel providers, caterers and more which generate some $1.3 billion in annual business revenue for the region.

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