Building the “aerotropolis”

An article in the Boston Globe discusses a recently-coined phenomenon: the aerotropolis. This refers to the conglomeration of businesses and other uses that now tend to gather around important international airports:

Dulles is no longer an airport but an aerotropolis, a term coined by a University of North Carolina business professor. An aerotropolis is a city of the 21st century, built around a runway in roughly the same way that historic cities grew up around water or rail lines, with a close-in network of businesses, an outer loop of service industries, and suburbs full of homes.

Aerotropolises have emerged in places like the former no man’s zone between Dallas and Fort Worth, in suburban Atlanta, and around Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, near Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. They provide what John D. Kasarda, the UNC professor, calls “connectivity” to the global marketplace. International companies want to locate where their executives can step out their doors and be on another continent eight hours later. Firms producing the highest-value goods want to ship them to markets around the world. (“The Web won’t move a box,” Kasarda declares. “High-end products move by air.”) And businesses with tentacles around the globe want a place where all their people can fly in easily for meetings.

The story goes on to discuss how this did not come about around Logan Airport in Boston, primarily because of space issues. If space is indeed an important concern, this may be tricky to navigate – a city wants an airport relatively close to businesses and travelers can easily get downtown but at the same time, perhaps airports should be located further out as airports themselves require a good amount of land and if the aerotropolis is the goal, this takes up even more space.

This new term also suggests that airports are more than just pieces of infrastructure or places where tourists come and go but rather are important nodes in urban business networks. But some other information might be helpful to better understand the aerotropolis: does the aerotropolis provide more or less benefits than businesses that gather around other modes of transportation (highways, rail lines, seaports)? How does the business generated around airports today compare to the business generated 20 years ago? Which industries in particular benefit from the aerotropolis? How much money do municipalities gain from the aerotropolis versus other land uses?

Translating this into some other terms in use, is this simply an edge city with an airport at its center?

h/t The Infrastructurist

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