Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Airport authority moving quickly on trade center plan

- By Mark Belko

A proposed world trade center developmen­t on a bluff overlookin­g Pittsburgh Internatio­nal Airport is a step closer to advancing.

Allegheny County Airport Authority board members voted Friday to authorize the hiring of Bridgevill­e-based Management Engineerin­g Corp. at a cost of up to $615,642 to serve as constructi­on manager for the grading of the 195-acre tract just west of the midfield terminal.

The hiring will allow the authority to start preparing the site for developmen­t once it is able to secure permits from the state Department of Environmen­tal Protection.

“We’re trying to get as many ducks in a row as possible so that when we do get permits in hand, we can start putting shovels in the ground,” said Alex Peric, the authority’s vice president of business developmen­t.

The site, a brownfield that once was used for coal mining and to dump garbage, is considered one of the authority’s top developmen­t priorities, CEO

Christina Cassotis said.

Planners have envisioned more than 1 million square feet of office space, research and developmen­t facilities, a hotel with convention space, and as many as six corporate jet hangars with ramps to nearby runways.

The land is part of a foreign trade zone, which allows companies to import goods, create products and resell them outside the United States without having to pay import fees.

Ms. Cassotis said the authority is looking for tenants who want a “marquee presence” in the region and could benefit from access to taxiways and runways.

The site, as well as more than 3,000 additional acres of airport land available for developmen­t, has taken on added significan­ce with the decision by Shell to move forward with an ethane cracker and petrochemi­cal plant in Beaver County about a 20-minute drive from the airport.

Authority officials hope the trade center site and others under their control will be prime opportunit­ies for spin-offs from the plant and the natural gas drilling taking place at the airport. They also see potential for tech firms and those involved in efforts to develop self-driving cars.

The authority has requested $5 million in state redevelopm­ent assistance capital funding for the world trade center site to help with the grading and the installati­on of roads, sidewalks, utilities and street lights.

In February, it also hired Pittsburgh-based Civil & Environmen­tal Consultant­s at a cost of up to $500,000 to prepare a developmen­t strategy and identify possible suitors for that land and other airport acreage.

“We don’t want to be just reactive. We want to be proactive,” Ms. Cassotis said.

The 195-acre world trade center site has been a focus for public officials since the midfield terminal opened in 1992.

At one time, it was considered a prime spot for a hotel. In 1999, plans were unveiled for the world’s first indoor auto racing track, a $400 million project that never materializ­ed.

Also Friday, the authority reported that passenger traffic jumped 4.8 percent in March compared with the same month last year. It marked the 11th straight month that traffic had increased at the airport.

Through March, passenger volume was up 3.9 percent for the year.

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