Volkswagen weighing site near airport

German automaker Volkswagen is in talks to open an operations center with about 100 employees at the site of the former Ford plant in Hapeville, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations.

A deal would boost redevelopment of the so-called “Aerotropolis” site just east of the Atlanta airport’s runways, where Volkswagen’s sports car unit, Porsche, already plans a new North American headquarters.

Porsche’s plans call for a stylish office building that incorporates a test track on the lower level. The specific functions of a potential new Volkswagen office are not yet known.

Volkswagen isn’t commenting on any talks about the site, although spokesman Carsten Krebs said it “currently has no plans” to consolidate existing Atlanta area offices or operations there.

The company has a regional office for Volkswagen, Audi and its finance division in Alpharetta and training facilities in College Park.

“At present, we have no plans to move or expand these business units,” Krebs said.

The people familiar with the negotiations described the potential Volkswagen facility as a new corporate office, not a consolidation.

Volkswagen’s parent company, Volkswagen AG, acquired the Porsche car making business last year. Volkswagen AG controls several other brands, including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

One person with knowledge of the situation said negotiations are “far along,” and are pending approval of German government officials. The government of the German state of Lower Saxony is a partial owner of Volkswagen AG.

Volkswagen’s current North American headquarters is in Herndon, Va., about 25 miles west of Washington, D.C.

The parking lots, warehouses and empty land around Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport have long frustrated politicians and business leaders who envision a cluster of offices, hotels and stores that can feed off the nearby airport activity.

Many boosters hope that Hartsfield-Jackson can one day mirror northern Virginia’s Dulles International Airport, which is surrounded by high-tech companies and retail centers. They also note the area around Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, once a vast ranch, now has almost as much commercial office space as the Dallas city center.

Porsche’s North American headquarters project broke ground last November and is expected to cost about $100 million.

Development of that project has fueled speculation that certain Volkswagen operations could follow.

If a deal is reached, it would plant the flags of two prestigious German brands at a site where American cars rolled off a now demolished assembly line for nearly 60 years.

The closing of the Ford plant cost Hapeville its largest employer and taxpayer, but officials have held out hope in the re-imagining of the site by Jacoby Development as a mixed-use corporate hub. Jacoby coined the marketing name “Aerotropolis Atlanta.”

Jacoby acquired the site from Ford in 2008 after the Detroit auto giant shuttered the plant that most recently produced Taurus sedans. Jacoby planned a mixed-use development that would act as a hub for big business, a development that could also eventually include a hotel.

But since Porsche’s commitment to move from Sandy Springs to the site, Jacoby sold about half of the parcel’s 122-acres to the city of Atlanta while continuing efforts to redevelop the remaining pieces.

Porsche’s deal included an option to purchase additional land beyond the initial 26 acres planned for its office complex and track.

A move by Volkswagen would not only put it next door with one of its marquee brands, but the site is also about 130 miles from Volkswagen’s massive plant in Chattanooga, where it makes Passat sedans.

Executives and managers also would have ready access to flights to much of the world, including manufacturing sites in the U.S., Mexico and South America.

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