Development

Land around Charlotte’s airport offers tempting development possibilities, draft study says

Photographs of the completed intermodal yard at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. There are now trains on the site, as well as cranes and trucks.
Photographs of the completed intermodal yard at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. There are now trains on the site, as well as cranes and trucks. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

A new Charlotte Douglas International Airport study shows the land around the airport could support millions of square feet of new commercial space over the next 20 years, interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle said Wednesday.

Speaking at a meeting of the Global Vision Leaders Group, Cagle outlined the early results of the airport’s study looking at property around the main airfield. Charlotte Douglas, an independently financed city department, hired consulting firm MXD last year for $900,000 to conduct the study.

Charlotte Douglas owns more than 5,000 acres in west Charlotte, its property extending far beyond the runways and terminals. Airport ownership goes north to Interstate 85, east to Billy Graham Parkway, south past West Boulevard and Byrum Drive and west past Interstate 485.

“The airport has that opportunity to put that land back into service for commercial purposes,” Cagle said.

Much of the land north and south of the runways is former residential property that the airport purchased and demolished to deal with increasing noise from flight paths. Cagle said new development on such property would be commercial, such as warehouses, hotels, manufacturing and offices, to minimize potential noise conflicts.

The MXD study is examining far more than just the airport’s owned property. Overall, the consultants are looking at 25 square miles. Cagle said the airport will prioritize development on its own property, and will look for partners and joint ventures to stimulate development on other land the airport doesn’t own.

Cagle said the draft study shows that over the next 20 years, the land around the airport could support:

▪ 4.6 million square feet of warehouse space under a low-growth scenario and 7.7 million square feet under a high-growth scenario.

▪ 1.7 million square feet of office space under a low-growth scenario and 2.8 million square feet under a high-growth scenario.

▪ 769 hotel rooms under a low-growth scenario and 1,442 rooms under a high-growth scenario.

▪ 707,000 square feet of flex industrial space (warehouse or manufacturing space with office space as well) under a low-growth scenario and almost 1.2 million square feet under a high-growth scenario.

The airport and MXD plan to finish the study by late summer or fall, Cagle said. After that, they’ll identify specific areas to develop and catalytic projects to try to kick off more intensive development.

One development is already underway near the airport: Crescent Communities and Lincoln Harris are teaming up to rezone and develop the River District, a new mixed-use development west of the airport, between Charlotte Douglas and the Catawba River. Covering 1,300 acres, the development will be comparable in size to Ballantyne, with thousands of new residences, office space and shops.

Cagle said Charlotte Douglas is working with the developers on that project. He said noise from planes isn’t expected to be an issue, since the airport’s north-south flight plans don’t pass over the land west of Charlotte Douglas. A bigger potential concern, he said, will be access to the site, since Charlotte Douglas blocks new east-west routes to and from uptown, funneling traffic onto existing routes such as Wilkinson Boulevard.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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