Plans for Business Park in the Works at Albuquerque Int'l Sunport

by Kathy Scott
Published in: 

When Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) closed its original runway in 2012, the airport’s director of aviation, Jim Hinde, saw a distinct bright side. Hinde envisioned the opportunity to redevelop the land and increase the airport’s non-airline revenues by establishing a global business incubator. The change in land use, he reasons, will not only enhance the airport’s financial stability, but also benefit the city of Albuquerque and state of New Mexico.

Since 2008, ABQ’s revenue mix has gone from more than 50% in airline revenue to now more than 50% in non-airline revenue — a trend Hinde hoped to continue. “With the volatility of the airlines, we wanted to generate new non-airline revenues,” he explains.

Project: Airside Redevelopment
Location: Albuquerque (NM) Int’l Sunport
Strategy: Develop & market a business park on previous runway site
Project Name: Aviation Center of Excellence
Consultant: C&S Companies
Park Focus: Aviation/aerospace businesses

Jack Scherer, ABQ’s associate director of planning, helped Hinde and his project team identify distinct aspects of the specific 84 acres that would entice global businesses to sign on:

  • The F-grade taxiway bordering the site provides direct aircraft access to buildings and warehouses.
  • Research and development can be performed on-site, with potential participation from nearby federal, state and local experts.
  • Strategic relationships can be developed and strengthened due to the proximity of Sandia National Lab, Kirtland Air Force Base and the University of New Mexico, a public research university.

Moving Ahead

Before proceeding, Hinde and Scherer had to determine the feasibility of various approaches and reassess ABQ’s Strategic Physical Plan, which previously called for an additional terminal to be built over the next five to 10 years. Hinde analyzed several potential scenarios and determined that none warranted a new terminal. This realization, in turn, paved the way to redevelop the plan and focus on developing the previous runway site in an effort to create financial stability for the airport. He knew, however, that the task would require parallel approval processes from the FAA, city of Albuquerque, ABQ and other entities.

The airport contracted C&S Companies, a firm that has worked on numerous land use and real estate strategy projects for more than 25 airports, to assess the property’s potential and provide a strategy for redeveloping it.

Matt Taylor, national director of land use and market strategies for C&S, admits that his initial context for the local market didn’t span far beyond New Mexican cuisine and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. “For this reason, it is always critical we conduct local market fieldwork and analytics as well as key stakeholder interviews to gain a greater appreciation of a community’s true assets,” emphasizes Taylor.

After viewing the property, he identified several ways for the airport to partner with the business community. “We are being deliberate and methodical,” Taylor explains. “What we found unique to Albuquerque was that it is a place where great ideas start, as evidenced by the numerous R&D company successes that have launched from this community and gone global.” 

Taylor notes that the team’s methods focused exclusively on the business of Albuquerque — more specifically, on developing an aviation-centric business park. The team initially focused on companies or research labs that might work well within a master-planned business park. Eventually, the park was named Aviation Center of Excellence (ACE) and touted as “home to strategic aviation and aerospace innovation and partnerships.”

Parcels & Pieces

“The current ACE plan has the 84 acres segmented into six aviation/aerospace modules, all considered to be part of a cohesive, supportive, collaborative environment that leverages synergies among the resident companies,” says Taylor.

With Sandia National Labs and Kirtland Air Force Base just a few miles from the airport, C&S focused on looking for “market synergies and opportunities to leverage the leading-edge research and business already being conducted within the community,” recalls Taylor. “The concept proposed included a business incubator that could bring in new business operations that could benefit from proximity to air service.”

A 20-acre area has been identified for aircraft component, composite and engine manufacturing. Adjacent to this area is another 10 acres reserved for aviation-related expansion. The southernmost 30 acres is divided between an MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) supply cluster and an area allocated for a future regional/business jet MRO, which would include storage and warehousing.

Finally, three acres is designated for an aviation-focused training center. The plan, while reflecting current market conditions and anticipated future trends, maintains flexibility to respond to the evolving needs of the marketplace. 

Each segment has no set plot limits, clarifies Scherer: “Flexibility in how we can accommodate different users is key.”

Taylor and the C&S team have also identified an opportunity to develop a nine-acre tract on the northern boundary of the vacant property for use by non-airport consumers. Known as “The Landing,” the area includes direct access to Gibson Boulevard, one of Albuquerque’s main east-west transportation arteries, and is tentatively designated for development as a multi-use commercial center with a convenience store/gas station, retail outlets and restaurants.

The city of Albuquerque, which owns ABQ, has supported the transformation, albeit currently only on paper. “The mayor’s office is actively involved,” reports Scherer, adding that the city is currently working on approving sewer service, water and gas for the initial build out. Construction and marketing of the property are slated to begin after the city signs off on initial utilities.

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