Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Airports Take Flight

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Airports Take Flight

Article excerpt

Every day is an adventure in real estate management, regardless of property type. But for the select number of property managers managing airport real estate, adventure is taken to new heights.

"[An airport] is an exciting and dynamic place if you are considering a career in real estate. Things are always changing," said Greg Owens, assistant director for business retention and development at Miami International Airport. "I think it's a wonderful place to have a real estate career."


While commercial office and retail spaces may be shrinking for a variety of reasons including technological advances allowing for telecommuting and online shopping, airports are expanding thanks to a global business environment and increased consumer travel.

System capacity in available seat miles-the overall measurement for how busy aviation is-is projected to increase by 1.5 percent in 2014 both domestically and internationally, according to the Federal Aviation Authority report, Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2014-2034. It will then grow at an average annual rate of 2.7 percent through 2034. Owens is seeing this growth first hand at Miami's Airport.

"We're one of the fastest growing airports in the country," he said. "To accommodate that growth, a lot of planning and sound management is required."

The need for sound real estate management, however, has not always been recognized, especially at airports with government oversight, said Mark McMullen, CPM, assistant concessions manager of ground transportation and passenger services with the Houston Airport System.

With government spending constrained because of the uncertain economy, he said governments have started to realize the importance of preserving and maintaining airport facilities to lengthen their usable life and maximize customer service. The focus is no longer solely on building new facilities.

"I think the airport culture has awakened to the fact that it is essential to plan effectively and preserve assets in order to generate revenue," McMullen said. "Airports are recognizing the value of professional property management throughout the country and that the profession is both an art and science.


The art and science of managing real estate can be particularly cumbersome at airports, which are highly regulated venues.

Aside from adhering to FAA guidelines, general airports are subject to the rules and regulations put forth by the government agencies that often have a presence at their facilities-organizations ranging from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and TSA to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the FBI.

"We're not short on being regulated," Owens said, "but we know what the regulations are, and we ensure to the best of our ability those regulations are being followed to a T."

Even at executive airports, where far fewer restrictions exist, regulations-mostly related to safety and security-still impact operations, said Tara Davis, CPM, regional director of properties and leasing for Sheltair, an aviation company offering Fixed Base Operator and aviation real estate development and property management services (like fueling and providing hangars for private plane storage); property leasing and development; and aviation-related construction and construction management.

She said the smallest property maintenance decisions can have big implications at an airport. While putting up an exterior light at a commercial office building would likely be an uneventful procedure, such an action at an airport needs clearance. Authorities need to ensure additional lighting won't create safety hazards for pilots.

"Every airport is different in terms of the regulations they are subject to," Davis said. "The more reliant an airport is on government funding, the more restrictions it will have regarding security, tenant type and facilities. Whatever the limitations, real estate managers need to work within the guidelines because there could be lease compliance issues. …

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