Take Offs & Land­ings

A funny thing hap­pened on the way to the air­port – it got to be the mid­dle of town

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE -

Cities in the Clouds – the aerotropo­lis ef­fect. Doha’s new Ha­mad In­ter­na­tional opens for busi­ness, plus new route news.

Me­trop­o­lis is a com­bi­na­tion of two Greek words that lit­er­ally mean “mother city. ”In an­cient Greece, a me­trop­o­lis was the home city – the “mother”– of set­tlers as they col­o­nized new re­mote re­gions. The orig­i­nal mean­ing of the word took on a con­no­ta­tion of a cen­ter from which cul­tural, so­cial and eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties spread. Over time, of course, the word has come to mean any ma­jor ur­ban area with a large con­cen­trated pop­u­la­tion.

Aerotropo­lis is a newly coined word that in many ways re­flects the old. In an age where the idea of mov­ing pack­ets of data from node to node has be­come a com­mon­place con­cept, the no­tion of air­ports as phys­i­cal nodes that con­nect phys­i­cal pack­ets – whether people or cargo – is gain­ing trac­tion.

Aerotropo­lis – an air-city – is a form of ur­ban plan­ning that is cen­tered on and driven by an air­port, be­com­ing in ef­fect its own city. The word was first in­tro­duced in the Novem­ber 1939 is­sue of Pop­u­lar Sci­ence mag­a­zine by NewYork commercial artist Ni­cholas DeSan­tis. His pro­posed 200-story sky­scraper was eight city blocks long with a land­ing strip on the roof, and housed of­fices, shops, restaurants, the­aters and sports venues – a com­plete city.

If that idea sounds vaguely fa­mil­iar, the con­cept – along with the word – was re­vived some 60 years later by Dr. John D. Kasarda, a pro­fes­sor at the Ke­nan-Fla­gler Busi­ness School at the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “To­day, vir­tu­ally all of the commercial func­tions of a mod­ern met­ro­pol­i­tan cen­ter are found on or near most ma­jor air gate­ways, ”Kasarda says in a re­port pub­lished in Air­port World, “fun­da­men­tally chang­ing them from ‘city air­ports’ to ‘air­port cities.’”

To­day, the phrase aerotropo­lis is much in vogue among city plan­ners and politi­cians, re­flect­ing the un­der­ly­ing con­cept that air­ports are the con­nect­ing nodes for businesses to reach their

It takes more than throw­ing up a few ware­house build­ings to trans­form an air­port into a true aerotropo­lis

sup­ply chains, their cus­tomers and their part­ners world­wide. Un­for­tu­nately, it takes more than throw­ing up a few ware­house build­ings along the ac­cess road to trans­form an air­port into a true aerotropo­lis.

In the past, air­ports and the ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture that sup­ported them have de­vel­oped along a very dif­fer­ent path. Most evolved hap­haz­ardly over time, hav­ing ini­tially been sited some dis­tance from city cen­ters based on land avail­abil­ity, and a de­sire on the part of the cit­i­zenry to avoid the un­pleas­ant side ef­fects of air traf­fic – noise, pol­lu­tion, traf­fic – in their back yards.

But in re­sponse to in­creas­ing con­sumer de­mands for greater ac­cess to air travel, and the recog­ni­tion of the rev­enue

The re­search leaves lit­tle doubt that air­ports have shifted from a sup­port­ing player to a star­ring role

streams that air­ports gen­er­ate, im­proved in­fra­struc­ture soon grew up to sup­port sur­face trans­porta­tion ac­cess and commercial real es­tate op­por­tu­ni­ties.

To­day, hav­ing seen how the model can work, a num­ber of newer ‘green­field’ air­port projects have been planned this way from the start to ra­tio­nal­ize the growth.

“Re­gard­less of process,” Kasarda says, “air­ports con­tinue to trans­form from pri­mar­ily air trans­port in­fra­struc­ture to mul­ti­modal, multi-func­tional en­ter­prises gen­er­at­ing con­sid­er­able commercial de­vel­op­ment within and well be­yond their bound­aries.”

Cat­a­lysts for Growth

The city of Denver, CO, has iden­ti­fied three sig­na­ture re­gions that are ex­pected to trans­form the city while gen­er­at­ing bil­lions of dol­lars and cre­at­ing tens of thou­sands of jobs over the next three decades, ac­cord­ing to Mayor Michael B. Hand­cock. Of these, the area be­tween Denver’s north­east neigh­bor­hoods and Denver In­ter­na­tional Air­port rep­re­sents “the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of un­de­vel­oped land in the city – and con­se­quently the great­est eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity, ”the mayor says.

As a re­sult, a ma­jor ini­tia­tive for the city is the rail con­nec­tion be­tween Denver In­ter­na­tional Air­port and down­town. “This line will light-up de­vel­op­ment along the 20-mile route, an area I call the Cor­ri­dor of Op­por­tu­nity and Aerotropo­lis, ”Hand­cock says.“I am ex­cited about lev­er­ag­ing the big­gest eco­nomic en­gine in the re­gion, Denver In­ter­na­tional Air­port, to drive job cre­ation and growth on a glob­ally com­pet­i­tive scale.”

Denver’s story is one that’s be­ing re­peated for vir­tu­ally ev­ery ma­jor US city, and dozens more in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Mid­dle East. Kasarda di­vides these into aerotropolises and air­port cities, and fur­ther iden­ti­fies them as ei­ther “op­er­a­tional ”or “de­vel­op­ing.”

Us­ing these cat­e­gories, he has iden­ti­fied 38 aerotropolises or air­port cities in North Amer­ica, 20 in Europe, 17 in Asia-Pa­cific, seven in Africa and the Mid­dle East and one each in Cen­tral and South Amer­ica. The good doc­tor him­self ad­mits that the cri­te­ria are some­what neb­u­lous, stat­ing, “the sub­jec­tiv­ity of these must be rec­og­nized. ”Nonethe­less, from these num­bers the global scope of aerotropo­lis de­vel­op­ments is ev­i­dent.

Job Gen­er­a­tors

Las Coli­nas, TX, a 10-minute drive from Dal­las-Fort Worth In­ter­na­tional, is home to four For­tune 500 world head­quar­ters. The area around Chicago O’Hare has more of­fice and con­ven­tion space than most ma­jor cities can boast. And the size of the re­tail mar­ket in the Wash­ing­ton Dulles air­port re­gion is sec­ond only to NewYork City’s Man­hat­tan in the US.

Around the world there are ma­jor air­ports that ac­tu­ally have more of­fice space and em­ploy more people than their city’s down­town busi­ness districts. In Paris, the 160-acre Rois­sypôle com­plex in the mid­dle of Charles de Gaulle air­port has over 2.5 mil­lion square feet of of­fice space. The air­port hosts around 700 com­pa­nies that em­ploy a to­tal of 87,000 people. In the en­tire Paris re­gion, ap­prox­i­mately 250,000 jobs are di­rectly or in­di­rectly re­lated to CDG, the world’s eighth busiest air­port.

The re­search leaves lit­tle doubt that air­ports have shifted from a sup­port­ing player to a star­ring role as pri­mary busi­ness cen­ters and job growth driv­ers. Around the 25 busiest pas­sen­ger air­ports in the US, re­search by Kasarda and Dr Stephen Ap­pold found that as of 2009, 3.1 mil­lion jobs were lo­cated within a 2.5-mile ra­dius of these air­ports. That rep­re­sents al­most 3 per­cent of all US em­ploy­ment. Within a five-mile ra­dius of the air­port fence, businesses em­ployed over 7.5 mil­lion people and 19 mil­lion em­ploy­ees work within 10 miles of an air­port, or nearly one in five jobs in the US (17.2 per­cent).

Within a five-mile ra­dius, Chicago O’Hare has 450,000 jobs, DFW 395,000 jobs, and Wash­ing­ton Dulles al­most 240,000 jobs. Nearly 10 per­cent of all jobs in trans­port and ware­hous­ing in the US are lo­cated within a 2.5-mile prox­im­ity of these 25 air­ports.

Given the global reach of avi­a­tion, it’s hardly sur­pris­ing to see the aerotropo­lis ef­fect is a world­wide phe­nom­e­non. Mem­phis and Paris CDG cargo and lo­gis­tics com­plexes are among the world’s busiest, while the cargo op­er­a­tions at South Korea’s In­cheon air­port sup­ports New Songdo IDB, an air­port edge city the size of down­town Bos­ton.

“Dubai and Sin­ga­pore have emerged as a full-fledged aerotropolises with their large leisure, tourism, commercial and fi­nance sec­tors de­pen­dent on avi­a­tion,” Kasarda notes. “Both may le­git­i­mately be de­scribed as global avi­a­tion hubs with citys­tates at­tached.”

Nat­u­rally, the lodg­ing sec­tor grav­i­tates to­ward the new aerotropolises. At­lanta, for in­stance, has al­most as many ho­tels within 2.5 miles of Hartsfield-Jack­son In­ter­na­tional as there are in the city cen­ter – 49 at the air­port, 51 down­town. But other pro­fes­sional, tech­nol­ogy and med­i­cal cor­po­ra­tions are set­tling in around the air­port perime­ter as well. All this ac­tiv­ity is boost­ing a host of sup­port and life­style ser­vices, such as shop­ping, sports and en­ter­tain­ment, plus con­ven­tion cen­ters, show­rooms and ex­hibit space.

“We have en­tered a new tran­si­to­ri­ented de­vel­op­ment era where cities are be­ing built around air­ports in­stead of the re­verse, ”Kasarda con­cludes in his Air­port World ar­ti­cle. “In the process, the ur­ban cen­ter is be­ing re­lo­cated in the form of glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant air­port cities and aerotropolises.” BT


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