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Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta airport to lease land after years of expanding its footprint

After years of acquiring land for runways, terminals and more parking, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is putting some of its vast holdings up for lease.

Leaders of the world’s busiest airport on Tuesday teased more than 100 developers, real estate investors and property management consultants with miles of land around Hartsfield that could be available for development deals as soon as the next two months.

The properties — ranging in size from eight to 122 acres — are part of 500 or so acres the airport has in various areas around South Fulton and Clayton counties. Officials are hoping the land can be turned into offices, hotels, retail and residential projects in a part of metro Atlanta that has been often overlooked by developers.

“Opportunities and potential are everywhere,” airport general manager John Selden told the audience at Hartsfield’s “ATL Real Estate Industry Day” at the old Sheraton Gateway Hotel. The meeting, which lasted roughly seven hours, reviewed airport contracting, security requirements for construction on properties abutting Hartsfield, height limits for buildings set by the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as a bus tour of four sites.

“We feel the time is right to invest in the possibilities around Hartsfield-Jackson,” Selden said.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport plans to getting into the game of leasing land its not using in an attempt to jumpstart office, retail and residential development next to and near the airport campus. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hartsfield is the latest south metro organization to push for more construction around the airport, which advocates see as an untapped resource for Atlanta’s growth.

College Park is designing a 320-acre development called Airport City that could include offices, single-family homes, greenspace and coffee shops. Clayton County is considering creating an entertainment center with hundreds of acres of land, though a lawsuit has threatened to derail that plan.

Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, another group trying to attract more growth around the airport, has worked to try to coalesce workforce development organizations to better pitch to companies the skills and size of the employee pool around the airport.

“It shows to the development community that a lot of people and governments are willing to work together to get things done,” said Gary Carlos Young, College Park’s director of airport affairs. “That’s incredibly important.”

Backers of developing land around Hartsfield say Atlanta should follow the example of airports such as Charles de Gaulle in Paris, Amsterdam’s Schiphol and Singapore’s Changi, which have developed the land around them for purposes beyond transportation hubs. For instance, Incheon International in South Korea is planning a business center not far from the airport that will include housing, offices and retail.

Among the industries that could be developed around the Hartsfield are aerospace, food and agri-business, multi-media production and bio-life science, said Shannon James, president and CEO of Aerotropolis.

Matthew Clark, who consults with businesses on cargo issues, said the event was important for him to learn about Hartsfield’s plan to grow its transportation business and the role is ambitions as a leaser of land will play.

“For anybody in the real estate and development world, this was eye opening,” said Clark, president of Atlanta-based Veritas CFO. “The number and the size of the properties that the airport has to develop … is good for the city, good for the state and good for the southeast.”

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