By Alex Gallagher
The Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce Airpark Forum returned after two years, and there was plenty to brag about.
The 2021 fiscal year was successful for the Scottsdale Airport, and the good times appear to be rolling.
Scottsdale Airport was named the world’s fourth best airport for business aviation departures, according to WingX, software that tracks business aviation flight activity globally.
Despite a 39-day closure during the summer for an $11 million runway rehabilitation project — its biggest project to date — the airport was back to running full capacity in August 2021
“What we’re seeing is that even though we’ve had a slack in our operations from last year due to our project is that our business jet activity is increasing, which has helped us in earning our title of being fourth in the world for business aviation departures,” says Sarah Ferrara, the aviation planning and outreach coordinator with the Scottsdale Airport.
The airport’s steady traffic is attributed to convenience for business travelers.
“You land and can have a car waiting for you to head to wherever you work, play or plan to enjoy life,” Ferrara says.
During Scottsdale’s event season, the airport saw a 77% increase in business aviation departures, which was largely due to 2,000 departures for Barrett-Jackson and 1,800 for the WM Phoenix Open.
The airport has also added and leased 14 hangars to its space through city funding at a price tag of $9 million.
“We know there’s a need for hangar space,” Ferrara says. “We have the challenge of being landlocked, but we created box hangars through a city-funded project.”
The project did not affect taxpayers.
“We funded this internally without any grants and we built these box hangars to lease these out, which has helped us recoup the cost of building $9 million through leasing agreements,” Ferrara says.
The airport has also welcomed more fixed-base operations.
“We welcomed Jet Aviation, which gave us three fixed-base operations alongside Ross Aviation and Signature,” Ferrara says. “Having a third fixed-base operation was, in itself, huge. But as part of its lease agreement, Jet Aviation is investing another $8 million into building a hangar at 18,000 square feet to fill the need for more hangar space.”
That project is anticipated to start in the late spring or early summer.
Jet Aviation is also investing $30 million into a private hangar with an expansive ramp for clients’ aircraft. The 3-acre plot will feature office space and a terminal.
Ross Aviation also expanded by investing $18 million into its hangars, offering 56,000 square feet of additional hangar and office space.
The projects have come at the perfect time, as the airport is preparing for the Super Bowl. The airport is partnering with the FAA to divert as much traffic as possible from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and remain busy during the tourism influx.
Within the airpark’s 46 million square feet of buildings and 130 separate industries, Colliers International founding partner and designated broker Jim Keeley has noticed a change in the area.
“The pandemic spurred a paradigm change, but the last two years have brought a reset,” Keeley says.
“Cavasson, Nationwide’s 450,000 square feet that will grow to 1 million square feet or 134 acres, is getting the most activity in the Valley for companies that are 50,000 square feet or more.”
Another project Keeley is keeping a watchful eye on is the Axis at Raintree development — a three-story, 175,000-square-foot building with two new apartment complexes being built around it.
“They’re looking for 50,000-square-foot tenants and bigger, and they’re patiently going to wait for that,” Keeley says.
Keeley reported an influx in industrial development across Scottsdale.
“The Scottsdale Airpark has not had industrial development for the last 20 years because the land values 20 years ago have exceeded such that most industrial developers went elsewhere,” he says. “Because industrial development is so valuable right now, we have a couple of projects to keep an eye on.”
The first is a 124-acre parcel of land off Bell Road and Loop 101 that sold on March 7 for $125 million.
“You’re likely to see a million square feet of development come in there, which should be great for the Airpark,” he says.
Keeley is also watching a 20-acre development on the Seventh-day Adventist campus. It has a 99-year lease with another developer to create 240,000 square feet of industrial space.
Keeley has his eye on industrial and commercial developments but is following the city’s housing shortage.
“The housing shortage is dire in Arizona and throughout the country,” he says. “The first decade of the century, we overbuilt, but the second decade we’ve underbuilt, which is why we’re seeing more apartments coming up,”
In 2010, the area had 3,600 units; today it boasts 9,400 units. Between 2010 and 2022, the square footage of residential buildings grew from 38 million to 46 million.
However, Keeley foresees good news coming to the Airpark shortly. He predicts that the greatest activity will be along the Loop 101 from Princess Drive to 56th Street. The Desert Ridge area will become part of the Greater Scottsdale Airpark employment base due to development along the Loop 101.
He also predicts that the Greater Scottsdale Airpark will have 82,000 employees, 53 million square feet of office, flex, industrial, retail, multifamily, hotels and car dealership buildings and about 4,200 companies by the year 2030.