Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
The prospects of realizing Albuquerque’s ambition to be an aviation hub will be tested at a proposed business park on about 70 city-owned acres at the southeast corner of Gibson and Girard SE, between Albuquerque International Sunport and Kirtland Air Force Base.
“This is such a bonus for us,” said Jack Scherer, associate director of planning and development at the city’s Aviation Department. “It’s very unique to have property at the airport at grade that can be used for development.”
The 70 acres, plus another 11-12 acres fronting directly on Gibson, were used for roughly 3,000 feet of the north/south 17-35 Runway, which was decommissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration two years ago. The runway hadn’t been used by commercial aircraft since the mid-2000s.
The premier asset of the proposed business park, to be called the Aviation Center of Excellence or ACE, would be taxiway access for planes, Scherer said. Plane access would open up the park to what Scherer called “MROs,” or larger companies that do maintenance, repair and overhauls of aircraft.
“We’d love to get another aircraft manufacturer,” he said. “We’ll have a perfect setup for them.”
Eclipse Aerospace, the reincarnated version of bankrupt Eclipse Aviation, occupies more than 250,000 square feet of industrial space in the Sunport area, most of it in city-owned buildings on the opposite side of airport terminal from where the ACE business park is planned.
Eclipse, which makes the Eclipse 550 jet, is part of the general aviation sector, which generally includes all fixed-wing aircraft except those made for the military and commercial airlines. Military aviation and the aerospace sector are well represented at Kirtland and Sandia National Laboratories.
For years, aviation has been a targeted industry for economic development at both the local and state level. The state Legislature has passed various incentives geared to aviation over the years, most recently a couple of exemptions to gross receipts taxes adopted at the 2014 session.
After aviation went into the tank in the late 2000s due to the recession, 2013 marked the third consecutive year for increased deliveries of civil aircraft, according to a year-end review by the Aerospace Industries Association. The report emphasizes concern about the impact of federal budget cuts on the sector.
ACE will require an estimated $8 million in site work and infrastructure improvements, which Scherer said should begin by the end of this year. The planned layout of the business park will incorporate as much flexibility as possible.
“One of the challenges we face is where the first company wants to locate,” he said.
Land in the proposed park only can be leased, with the options being construction of a build-to-suit building or the company constructing its own building. The city is willing to negotiate terms of leases so that, for example, a company might occupy a parcel or building in exchange for a percentage of gross revenue.
“Concessions at the airport work that way,” Scherer said.
The 11-12 acres fronting on Gibson would be developed for retail uses, separate from ACE, given the high volume of traffic on Gibson generated by commuters to the base, Scherer said. A convenience store with gas pumps is likely at the hard corner of Gibson and Girard.
The airport area is a significant hub of commercial activity with close to 1 million square feet of industrial space and about 1.3 million square feet of office space. Almost all of the commercial space is west of Girard and south of Gibson.
In mid-2007, El Paso-based Hunt Development Inc. won a competitive contract to secure a lease to develop a mixed-use business park on 92 acres about a half mile east of the ACE site. Hunt’s project on Kirtland land, fronting Gibson between Carlisle and San Mateo, died when the recession hit.