Charlotte Douglas is looking at ‘catalytic’ projects to spur development around the airport

As it finalizes its new development master plan, Charlotte Douglas International Airport is looking at several “catalytic” projects to spur interest in surrounding land, the airport’s economic development director said this week.

Stuart Hair, the airport’s economic development director, told the Global Vision Leaders Group meeting Thursday at Central Piedmont Community College that Charlotte Douglas will finalize the development plan over the next few weeks.

The plan, on which Charlotte Douglas has spent $900,000, is an attempt to determine what the market potential could be for thousands of acres of mostly vacant land around the airport. Large tracts of undeveloped land surround Charlotte Douglas, especially to the north and west. Much of it is under noisy airplane approach and departure paths, making the area attractive for industrial, warehouses, logistics and other businesses.

Hair said the initial development strategy will focus on two areas: Wilkinson Boulevard and the cargo areas south of the terminal.

▪ The Wilkinson Boulevard project would involve building new office space near the airport’s entrance, with the goal of attracting tenants such as American Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration. Hair said Charlotte Douglas could also use some of the office space. Once the offices were developed – not by the airport, but in collaboration with a developer through a public-private partnership – that could spur more projects to fill in gaps nearby.

“There’s a lack of retail and commercial services,” Hair said. “There’s a demand for additional hotel services.”

Together, the offices, new shops and hotel space would form the basis of a new, mixed-use development.

▪ South of the passenger terminal, the airport’s cargo moves through warehouses on its way to and from planes. But Hair said those facilities are at capacity now, and there’s demand for more.

The two areas that could see growth, Hair said, are cold storage (think flowers, pharmaceuticals, expensive foods that have to be shipped fast and cold) and quick-turn storage (think overnight deliveries and returns, and companies such as Amazon that offer rapid shipping options to millions of customers). Charlotte Douglas saw its air cargo figures rise more than 14 percent last year, largely driven by Amazon’s new “Prime Air” service at the airport.

Hair said the airport would likely own its new cargo facilities and contract with a third party to operate them.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo