Charlotte airport seeking to study development options for surrounding land

Charlotte’s airport is growing rapidly, with $2.5 billion worth of expansion projects planned, but officials aren’t looking just within the airfield’s borders for growth: They’re trying to capitalize on the thousands of acres of largely vacant land around Charlotte Douglas International.

The airport put out a request for qualifications this week seeking a firm to create its next “Airport Area Development Strategy.” And Charlotte Douglas recently hired Stuart Hair, an economic development official from Cleveland County, as its lead economic developer.

The Airport Area Development Strategy at Charlotte Douglas dates from 1997, and many of its key goals have now been achieved. The airport has an intermodal rail freight yard and a third parallel runway. The next phase will seek to leverage that to spur further growth.

The new plan will examine areas the airport owns, areas the airport might buy in the future and contiguous land around the airport. The consultant will examine the best use for different areas, key parcels of land, storm water issues, infrastructure and utilities, transportation needs and “Provide a general understanding of the potential development and value for land owned by the Airport and located contiguous to Airport property.” Land uses being studied could include “industrial, office, retail, hotel, multi-family residential, and single family residential” (basically, all the land uses except medical and entertainment).

The consultant who is selected will also meet with developers, landowners and other stakeholders, as well as coordinate with the city, which is studying the Garrison Road/Dixie River Road corridor west of the airport for development.

The airport expects to have the development plan completed in early 2016.

The Dixie-Berryhill area west of the airport is one of the last mostly undeveloped areas left in Mecklenburg County, with thousands of wooded, hilly acres that have been largely cut off and sandwiched between Charlotte Douglas and the Catawba. Prominent developer Johnny Harris has expressed interest to landowners there in building a major development, but nothing has come of the plans yet. The airport is also buying a 370-acre neighborhood south of the third parallel runway.

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Twitter: @ESPortillo