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[IMGCAP(1)]BEIJING-To keep up with its exponential growth on all fronts, China has embraced the airport cities concept by setting a five-year plan in motion to develop all types of commercial space inside and outside their anchors’ fences. The building frenzy is an offshoot of double-digit annual growth in passenger and cargo traffic.

China is leading the world in the development of airport cities, with 15 in various stages of planning as support for an aeronautical pipeline calling for 95 additional airports by 2020 for the existing base of 149 facilities, according to Ping Wang, co-founder and EVP of Washington, DC-based Garfinkle & Wang Associates, and the general manager of GCW [Beijing] Ltd. He said seven of the country’s existing airports, which include shared facilities with the military, are supporting 70% of the country’s annual passenger and cargo traffic.

As a result of the hard push, the country is caught in an infrastructure race to build roads and high-speed rail to support office, retail, logistics, manufacturing and residential development, all airport-anchored and related. “The airport city program fits the People’s Republic of China’s airports extremely well,” said Wang, part of a special panel at the Airport Cities Conference and Exhibition 2008 held last week at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The 2010 conference will be held in China.

The panel presented an update of what’s happening behind China’s lines. In southwestern China, Yunnan province has 11 airports, of which three will be expanded, and six new ones added before 2010, including the $3.3-billion Kunming International Airport. “The Kunming hub will become the most important in the system and the bridge for China to participate in regional trade zones,” said Wu Fan, chairman of the Yunnan Province Airport Group Co. Ltd.

With the country under fire from environmentalists, Fan stressed Kunming International is a green design and the first one approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. “Environmentally friendly will be the key concept for the new airport,” Fan said.

The new airport’s annual traffic is projected to be 43 million passengers and 700,000 tons of cargo by 2020, so infrastructure preparation is under way for two expressways and a light-rail line to connect the Downtown to the airport, 24 kilometers apart. The terminal’s first phase totals 390,000 m2 [4.19 million sf] and features 108 aircraft stands. It will open in 2011 to a projected first-year traffic count of 24 million passengers and 600,000 tons of cargo.

Kunming and its aerotropolis footprint will span 86 km2, envisioned to become the principal hub for Southwest China, a link for Southeast Asia and South Asia to Europe and all of Asia. It will be China’s fourth gateway compound. Kunming Airport City is still on the drawing board, but it is being laid out with a high-tech commercial and exhibition area, communications and biotech parks, retail, residential, office and logistics space.

Zhang Kejian, VP of Guangdong Airport Management Corp. and general manager of Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport Co. Ltd., said his region’s airport now takes up 18 km2, but there is 88 km2 set aside for commercial development. “The land is very smooth. It’s easy to plan, to build and to use,” he said.

Baiyun’s third runway is under construction, and two more are planned to meet the projected annual flow of 95 million passengers and 600,000 tons of cargo. A new terminal with 1.1 million m2 [11.8 million sf] is on the drawing board.

“This is the top province city for economic development,” Kejian said. “That’s why we have attracted a lot of industries.” Coming online this year is FedEx’s headquarters for Asian-Pacific operations, a 187-hectare hub of logistics space.

Baiyun’s plan includes the formation of a “free trade environment to stimulate development and attract more businesses to our area,” Kejian said. The mix will be the usual roster of office, industrial, retail and residential, and include massive campuses for IT and logistics industries.

Changsha Airport City in Hunan Province will be a network of development zones and high-tech parks as its overseers chart a niche play for one of the oldest cities in the country. Its population is three times that of Texas and its land mass is 211,800 km2 or equal to the size of Kansas.

Wang believes Changsha is “one of the best candidates for a central hub,” which China doesn’t presently have. Its airport city project is a high priority, with a first-class logistics park possibly in five to 10 years. “Long-term planning is very important, particularly to guarantee success in the future,” Wang said. “This is a beginning. It’s not an official program yet.”

China and 10 countries have signed the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, similar to NAFTA, to facilitate the flow of cargo and passenger traffic. “There will be no border controls, no passport needs with the nations that signed,” Wang explained. “And that’s defined the design for Kunming.”

An airport city development also is on the drawing board for Beijing Capital International Airport, the country’s second-largest cargo facility. The airport and its ancillary development are envisioned to become the future hub of northeastern Asia.

[IMGCAP(2)]Ellen Hu, VP and general manger for Airport City Development Co. Ltd., said $3.2 billion has gone into Beijing airport’s development since 2003. Its third passenger terminal was completed in February, a 984,772 m2 [10.6 million sf] design on 244 acres and considered to be the world’s largest, at least for now. The airport city’s first phase of logistics space, 370,000 m2 [3.98 million sf], will deliver this quarter. At build-out, the logistics park will surpass 1.1 million m2 [11.8 million sf] of office/warehouse and distribution space.

Beijing Airport City will be a satellite city to Beijing. There is up to 10 km2 reserved for development; a plan calling for a customs inspection zone with a cargo terminal, express center, bonded warehouses and office buildings. Hu said it will be the first bonded logistics center in China, with 5.9 km2 earmarked for a special bonded zone with incentives akin to the US version of a Foreign Trade Zone. “We want it to be a showcase in China,” she stressed.

Beijing Airport City is a four-phase development, the first of which opened in February. The China International Expo Center will anchor a 5 km2 keystone development with an international school and surrounded by villas, low-rise, high-end residential units and entertainment space. Residential and commercial space will be the next to rise, she said.

Beijing Airport City is a project of Airport City Development Co., which is a joint venture of Capital Airport Holdings, Beijing Hangda Investment Co. Ltd. and Great Ocean Logistics Co. Ltd. The conglomerate’s strategic agenda is to “become the new pole of economic development for China to move up its positioning in the global value chain,” Hu said. “Our vision is to become the leading airport city investor, developer and operator in China.”

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