Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2007 Aerotropolis for Detroit? Previous Next
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Username: Mrjoshua

Post Number: 1157
Registered: 03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - 4:47 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Flight Plan: Airports Take Off
As Development Hubs

Professor Urges the Use
Of an Asian Strategy;
Fix for Detroit's Woes?

January 24, 2007; Page B10
The Wall Street Journal

John Kasarda says an Asian import could help alleviate Detroit's economic problems. It isn't a car, but a new kind of city, called an aerotropolis -- a vast complex that centers on the airport and features warehouses, offices, a shopping mall, a convention center and maybe residences and a golf course.

Airports are "the new central business districts of the postindustrial economy," says the University of North Carolina business professor. He has logged more than 100,000 miles over the past six years promoting the idea in Asia, where it has taken root outside cities from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Increasingly in the U.S., he is also pushing the idea that the right kind of airport development can spur thousands of new jobs in today's just-in-time global economy.

But some experts are skeptical of his U.S. proselytizing. They see big differences between master-planned airports built on greenfield sites overseas and civic-revitalization efforts aimed at U.S. airports that are often hemmed in by sprawl. Some argue that the aerotropolis is a better description of what already is happening around busy airports than a prescription for reviving cities.

The professor is careful to say he didn't invent the term aerotropolis. He says he first heard it in 1994 when he was helping officials in Zhuhai, China, figure out a strategy for their new airport. But he claims he is "generally recognized as the creator of the concept, if not the word," and has "probably done more to develop it and make it real" than anyone. "It's my primary work." Many observers give him credit for being the leading articulator of the idea, if not the author.

In his office at UNC's campus in Chapel Hill, N.C., the 61-year-old shows off airport-conference brochures that list him as the keynote speaker, aircraft models from his various trips and a preface he wrote to a Chinese-language text about airport economic development.

The Wilkes-Barre, Pa., native studied economics and business at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., then got his doctorate in sociology at UNC. During the late 1980s, Mr. Kasarda hit on the idea of airport "cities" as the "connecting nodes" of the fast-globalizing economy.

A rendering of SkyCity development expected near Hong Kong International Airport.
Mr. Kasarda began publishing on the aerotropolis concept during the early 1990s and says no one took much notice. But his career as an airport futurist took off after he won a small role in the mid-1990s helping global express-delivery company FedEx Corp. map out its regional package-sorting strategy in the Philippines. He has helped airport officials from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to Denver validate their aerotropolis ambitions, and will be in India next month to meet with Delhi Airport executives.

His vision has taken shape in Asia, where governments in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea recently have built airports ringed by industrial, commercial and residential complexes or have plans for big complexes outside the airports. In September, Suvarnabhumi Airport outside of Bangkok opened with the world's biggest passenger terminal under a single roof and the tallest control tower -- and expansion plans for an entire city and a goods-processing zone nearby.

The Thai government's chief planner of the project, Suwat Wanisubut, says Mr. Kasarda's consulting work gave him the confidence to argue more persuasively inside government that the new airport should be an aerotropolis. "Most Thai people said you should build an airport and then leave it alone because it's noisy and you just go there when you need to travel," Mr. Suwat says. "But John said the airport is a place where you can make money...He's very energetic. He can talk for two hours, three hours."

And talk he does. Last month, the professor spoke to 800 members of the Memphis, Tenn., Regional Chamber of Commerce. All of the slides and much of the presentation were carbon copies of his earlier works, although he added a sprinkling of statistics on Memphis, which handles the most cargo of any airport in the world, thanks to hometown FedEx.

"An aerotropolis is clearly forming around Memphis International Airport," he told the packed ballroom at the Peabody Hotel. "This is not build-it-and-they-will-come," he said. "It's happening right now."

Arnold Perl, a Memphis attorney who is chairman of the airport authority, says Mr. Kasarda has helped crystallize the community's need to build future airport development into its long-range plans so Memphis can remain competitive. "If we do nothing more, we'll be eclipsed and other global airports will surpass us," he says.

Critics say Mr. Kasarda uses civic leaders' desire to create jobs and bolster the tax base to pitch plans that won't work. "He's like the Music Man," says Michael Webber, an air-cargo consultant in Prairie Village, Kan. "He meets city-council members and then he spins them."

The Kansas City Department of Aviation is disillusioned. Three years ago, under a previous administration, the department hired Mr. Kasarda to look at how the Kansas City Airport could profit from its 11,000 undeveloped acres. Mark VanLoh, the current director, says he shelved Mr. Kasarda's report before he hired a master developer for an initial 700 acres of what will become the KCI Business Airpark.
"Some of his ideas were simplistic -- build a road around the airport," Mr. VanLoh says.

The professor says such criticisms are "simply not accurate or fair," adding that Messrs. Webber and VanLoh have praised his work in the past. Mr. Kasarda says his job is to provide inspiration, not concrete design plans. He also concedes that not all airports have the potential to become mega-airport cities. "I'm not so arrogant to think all of my ideas are right for all places," he says.

Mr. Kasarda blames himself for one development he promoted in the U.S.: the creation of an industrial park and free-trade zone at an underused airfield in rural North Carolina. Because of its location, the Global TransPark has been a flop, consuming $85 million in state and federal grants over 15 years and creating just 200 jobs.

But that is a different case than Detroit, he says, which already is an airline hub, highway crossroads and manufacturing center. As a consultant, Mr. Kasarda has met four or five times over the past three years with civic leaders there, pushing a vision of a development that could rise on 25,000 acres spreading between Detroit's Metro Airport and a cargo airport seven miles away.

Although it could take years and cost billions of dollars, a Detroit aerotropolis could create as many as 60,000 jobs and attract 40,000 residents, says Mulugetta Birru, economic-development director for Wayne County, Mich. "Cars are still made here," he says. "I feel very, very confident we can attract high-tech and distribution" businesses too.

Write to Susan Carey at susan.carey@wsj.com and Bruce Stanley at bruce.stanley@wsj.com
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Username: 1953

Post Number: 1264
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - 5:44 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Is that Belle Isle with an airport on it?
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Username: Toog05

Post Number: 97
Registered: 03-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 2:05 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I take it that you were joking
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Username: Gravitymachine

Post Number: 1484
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 2:19 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

the county is working on this idea already

(Message edited by gravitymachine on January 25, 2007)
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Username: Detroitplanner

Post Number: 854
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 2:21 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Its too small to be Belle Isle... its Grosse Ile!
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Username: Dnvn522

Post Number: 174
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007 - 2:23 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The "fix for Detroit's woes" is a bunch of development in Romulus?
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Username: Fareastsider

Post Number: 70
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Sunday, February 04, 2007 - 2:29 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I saw a special a year ago about the plan for around Metro. They highlited all the road and rail routes plus the amount of vacant land. They said how could we not see this before? It drove me crazy because it was basically just more sprawl and decentralization.
I would hope that the county and region would aim more jobs and growth near the airport in our established cites and business centers.
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Username: Charlottepaul

Post Number: 409
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Sunday, February 04, 2007 - 2:35 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

If you all have ever been to the Visteon Village out near 275 and Eureka Roads, that is sort of a part of the aerotropolis and what those behind the aerotropolis are trying to create on a larger scale.

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