Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cities build airport cities — 'aerotropolises' — for growth

A way to compete in a globally connected economy—
For decades, Ford produced Taurus sedans at a plant next to the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta's Hartsfield. But the 130-acre lot has sat vacant since 2008 when the plant was shut down.

A local commercial real-estate developer bought the land and now envisions something completely different: a mixed-use project, with office parks for firms that need quick access to the airport.

Development projects next door to airports are sparking economic excitement throughout the U.S., as financially struggling cities look to attract export-oriented and high-tech businesses amid an uncertain economic recovery.
Atlanta is just one of several cities latching onto the trend of trying to build all the aspects of a city around an airport — an "aerotropolis" as it's called by planners. The push is for aviation authorities to partner with private companies to cohesively and systematically develop bountiful land near the airport to attract office space, warehouses, logistics centers, retail stores, recreational facilities and apartments.
By attracting businesses that need frequent and easy access to airports — delivery-fulfillment centers, exporters, Web commerce companies, biomedical manufacturers and other time-sensitive enterprises — other clusters of businesses that cater to existing companies will be formed. Projects, such as entertainment and residential complexes, will soon follow, forming a city whose core and economic engine is the airport.

Airports and airlines need to be treated as key infrastructure to compete in a global economy," says John Kasarda, a University of North Carolina professor who is largely credited with coining the term "aerotropolis".

DFW has done this to an extent and wants to push it farther.

“•Dallas/Fort Worth. Airport officials see a new aerotropolis around three new rail stations that will connect the airport to Dallas and Fort Worth when they open in the next three years. Owning a land mass larger than Manhattan, the airport has zoned about 6,000 acres for industrial parks, retail and restaurants, hotels and an entertainment venue that will be developed gradually in the next 20 years, says John Terrell, the airport's vice president of commercial development. About 1,000 acres already have been developed, consisting of a hotel, golf course, cargo and commerce park. Aviall, an aircraft parts distributor, has moved in, as have the Dallas Cowboys' merchandising headquarters and aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney.
With American and Southwest airlines headquartered in the region, aviation has always been a key economic driver in Dallas and Fort Worth, and the region has had some previous success in aerotropolis development. Nearby suburbs, such as Southlake and Grapevine, hosting Great Wolf Lodge and the Gaylord Texan have flourished. Las Colinas, a planned, upscale area nearby, has owed much of its development to the airport.”-- Usa Today Newspaper

Countries around the world have been aggressive in converting the aerotropolis idea into reality--Dubai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai. Even in an economic downturn they are a success.

These projects may take many years to fully complete, but the potential they have to sustain jobs and economic stability in an area is very high.

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