Miles from Airport Road and the side of Will Rogers World Airport most travelers see, workers have begun laying pipe for a series of utility projects that will pave the way for future development on the airport's east side.
After the utility work, crews will relocate Portland Avenue, which will ready the area for the presence of new businesses: aerospace, non-aerospace and retail. Airports Director Mark Kranenburg said the development, which officials have been planning for three years, will focus on aviation.
“Oklahoma already has a very rich aerospace heritage and we wanted to build on that and try to get Will Rogers World Airport to be known as an aviation center,” he said. "What you see out there today is really the first step.”
Two water main projects along Portland Avenue — from SW 104 to SW 74 and from SW 74 to SW 59 — are being completed by the city of Oklahoma City utilities department at a cost of $8.7 million.
Construction of the new Portland Avenue is expected to be complete by the end of summer 2014. The new Portland Avenue will be four-lanes with a median, landscaping and esplanade lighting. Six million dollars from the city's 2007 bond package was earmarked to relocate Portland Avenue and the airport trust is funding the engineering and design.
When the infrastructure is complete, the airport will have 600 to 700 leasable acres.
Area designated for project
The airport owns more than 8,000 acres and designated 1,000 acres for development, portions of which were approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for nonaviation use. The current focus of development is between SW 89 and SW 54, bordered by Interstate 44 on the east and the airport's taxiways on the west.
Planners have divided the swath of land into a section abutting the interstate for retail, industrial and office space, a larger piece for direct aviation companies needing runway access and a middle section for indirect aviation business, such as freight transportation or other complimentary businesses, Kranenburg said.
Lariat Landing, the retail portion, could include restaurants, hotels, banking services, dry cleaners or other businesses that would appeal to airport employees and customers, Kranenburg said. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has begun marketing Lariat Landing to potential tenants.
Development of the area will be bound by certain restrictions set by the FAA, such as height requirements and leasing rates.
“Developing on airport dirt is quite different from developing on non-airport dirt,” Kranenburg explains.
He's confident there will be interest in the development because of its easy interstate access and location in south Oklahoma City, which is lacking in retail, he said.
In preparation for future development on the airport's east side, crews have nearly completed a $5 million project to realign and strengthen with concrete the easternmost taxiway so it can handle larger aircraft. The airport also extended another taxiway to within 300 feet of the existing Portland Avenue and designed it to go across Portland and 100 feet on the other side to accommodate aviation businesses that need runway access.
Kranenburg credits the success of two businesses that currently have operations on the east side — ARINC and Atlantic Aviation — with generating interest in the project. “Because on an airport, activity breeds activity,” he said.
ARINC, an aircraft modifications company based in Annapolis, Md., opened its first Oklahoma City hangar at Will Rogers in 2005. Last summer, the company added a second hangar, bringing its total hangar space to 145,000 square feet.
After securing two big Department of Defense contracts to upgrade KC-10s and KC-135s, the company is again in expansion mode.
Michael Young, vice president of ARINC Aerospace, the Oklahoma subsidiary of ARINC, said the operation just received approval to double the size of its ramp to accommodate the new production programs.
ARINC Aerospace is also adding workers and hopes to increase its staff by over 200 by early next year, Young said.
“If business continues to grow and expand, we would look to add a third hangar,” he said, adding that it would probably be two years or more.
Fixed-base operator Atlantic Aviation, based in Plano, Texas, opened its $6.5 million facility last summer, with a 29,000-square-foot hangar and 12,000-square-feet of office space.
Oklahoma City councilman David Greenwell, who represents Ward 5 in south Oklahoma City, said the development at the airport is an exciting opportunity to add more shopping choices for residents and reduce retail leakage to areas like Moore.
It complements the performing arts theater Oklahoma City Community College is building on the opposite side of Interstate 44, the new owners' plans for Crossroads Mall and retail opening up and down May Avenue, he added.
“It would be a destination point, more like a village than a strip center or mall,” he said.
For more information about Will Rogers World Airport's development plan, visit www.flyokc.com.