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AIRPORT CITIES: THE EVOLUTION

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Sunday, 21 April 2013 06:01

Written by  John Kasarda

Airport cities guru, Dr John Kasarda, reports on the growing worldwide phenomenon, the rise of the aerotropolis and their increasing economic importance.

Airport city and aerotropolis development is gaining substantial traction, multiplying rapidly on a global scale.

Using qualitative and quantitative techniques, I’ve identified over 80 airport cities and broader aerotropolises (airport-centred urban economic regions) around the world that are either already operational or in early stages of development.

Their distribution is widespread with 38 identified 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. Various criteria were used to designate operational or developing airport cities and aerotropolises. Some of the criteria are clearly subjective, so this list is by no means definitive. Without doubt, new sites will be added while some shown here may fall by the wayside.

Airport City evolution
Airport cities have developed along different paths. A portion of them were planned from the start. Most, however, evolved in a largely organic manner responding to (1) airport land availability, (2) improved surface transportation access, (3) growing air traveller consumer demands, (4) airport revenue needs, (5) new business practices, and (6) site-specific commercial real estate opportunities.

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

Today, virtually all of the commercial functions of a modern metropolitan centre are found on or near most major air gateways, fundamentally changing them from ‘city airports’ to ‘airport cities’.

The passenger-terminal has led this transition. Airside (past security), gallerias and retail streetscapes have been incorporated into concourses, as have multiple leisure and consumer services.

Upscale boutiques offering high-end fashion clothing and accessories, along with gourmet and themed restaurants, have been complemented by health, fitness and entertainment facilities including spas, clinics, multiplex cinemas and, in some cases, museums, art galleries, concerts and gaming venues.

Depending on your tastes, you can play roulette at the Holland Casino at Amsterdam Schiphol or view famous Dutch master paintings at its branch of the Rijksmuseum. Again, depending on taste, you can visit Dr Müller’s sex shop situated along Frankfurt Airport’s concourse or listen to the London Philharmonic at Heathrow.

Should an overnight stay be desired for airport area get-togethers or to simply to shop and relax in the airport city, a growing number of gateways have Terminal-linked 4 and 5-star hotels offering fine dining, nightclubs, and comfort amenities.

Airports as corporate headquarters
Corporate headquarter functions were once the domain of downtown office buildings. No longer. Go to Terminal D at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport or to the concourse of Detroit Metro’s magnificent McNamara Terminal and you will see business people with bulging briefcases walking from their arrival gates into DFW’s Grand Hyatt and Metro’s swanky Weston Hotel.

They are pouring into these concourse-connected business class hotels not to sleep, but to meet.

DFW’s Grand Hyatt and Detroit Metro’s Weston increasingly serve as virtual headquarters for geographically dispersed corporate staff, executives, and board members who fly in for sales meetings, client contacts, and high-level decision-making.

The full-range of office services and business support staff of a traditional corporate complex are available, including meeting rooms, computers and advanced telecom, secretarial and tech assistance.

Some airport hotels, such as the Sheraton at Amsterdam Schiphol, Hilton at Frankfurt and Sofitel at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 now even rank among the most popular places to hold business meetings in Holland, Germany and the UK respectively.

And airports in Asia are taking ‘doing business’ in them to a new level. For example, in 2010, Hong Kong International Airport opened the world’s largest terminal commercial lounge. Its 15,000sqft facility is a full-service business centre that supports up to 300 users with wireless office workstations, projectors, meeting rooms, advanced videoconference stations, and tech assistance. Large-screen TVs and an all-day buffet provide the entertainment during any downtime.

In tune with today’s corporate needs for quick access to their widely dispersed clients and enterprise partners, The Squaire (designated ‘New Work City’) opened at Frankfurt Airport in 2011. This two million square foot, mainly office and hotel complex, is over 2,000ft long (650 metres) and nine stories high.

Its primary value-proposition is speedy connectivity, not only local and national, but also global. The Squaire is just eight minutes via covered walkway to the airport’s international check-in counters.

In addition to an adjacent high-speed motorway, rapid ground connectivity to much of the region and beyond is provided by the inter city rail station underneath the complex. Served by some 230 long-distance trains daily, The Squaire is without doubt the best-connected office building in Europe.

Excellent surface connectivity, together with Frankfurt Airport’s extensive international flight network, has fashioned it into a magnet for offices of travel-intensive firms. One prominent multi-national accounting, auditing, and consulting firm, KPMG, has made The Squaire its European corporate headquarters, occupying 400,000sqft.

A number of major airports now actually exceed many downtown metropolitan central business districts in office space and employment. Rossypole, occupying 160 acres (65 hectares) in the middle of Paris CDG has over 2.5 million sqft (230,000sqm) of offices.

There are around 700 firms based on the 3,200-hectare (7,900 acre) airport property, employing a total of 87,000 people.

Proceeding outwards, there is an additional 770,000 sqm of offices in the immediate vicinity of the airport along with many hotels and logistics facilities. Approximately 250,000 jobs in the Paris region are directly or indirectly related to CDG.

_____

Taken from Airport-World: http://www.airport-world.com/publications/all-online-articles/item/2555-airport-cities-the-evolution

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