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BASTROP COUNTY, TX-Ten years after the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport closed, private developers are aiming to begin construction on its replacement, the Central Texas Airport. If all goes smoothly, the business aviation airport, located less than 20 miles east of downtown Austin, TX will also boast a huge commercial real estate component, a solar reclamation project, and will be the first green airport of its kind in the United States.

Developers Carpenter & Associates Inc. and Pico Energy Services tell GlobeSt.com they hope to break ground on the $150 million first phase in about six months, with the 8,000-foot runway and auxiliary hangars and taxiways becoming operational before the end of 2011. The airport, located on 2,000 acres in Bastrop County, will handle stage 3 and 4 corporate jets and private planes. Carpenter & Associates president and CEO Jim Carpenter says preliminary clearance and permitting has been received from the Federal Aviation Administration.

A place for aircraft of this type to take off and touch down has been sorely lacking since Mueller was shut down in 1999, the same year Austin-Bergstrom International Airport opened. “Since then, there hasn’t been anywhere in the Central Texas area for corporate or private planes to land. All we have right now is Bergstrom, with two runways,” Carpenter says.

The need for some kind of airport to handle non-commercial flights in central Texas was apparent to the Texas Legislature as far back as 2001, when it passed House Bill 2522 authorizing the state’s Department of transportation to identify sites for a new airport. There had also been some talk of the city of Austin taking over the shut-down Mueller and operating it as a general aviation-only airport, but little came of that effort.

Since that time, there have been a few attempts to provide new airfields to serve the business aviation fliers in central Texas. Carpenter says he’s spent years with the project, and is confident it’s about ready to come to fruition.

The green component comes from the fact that much of the airport’s operations will run off a solar energy component developed by Pico Energy Services. In the meantime, Green Corporate Centers, which could be built out to 6.5 million square feet, will offer a development eligible for high-level LEED certification.

Wall Street investors have also shown interest in the Central Texas Airport, explains Darin Walker, Carpenter & Associates’ vice president of finance and investment syndications. “There’s been one consistent thing they want, and that is to get the project to shovel-ready stage,” he tells GlobeSt.com. The next step, Walker continues, is to get the project to shovel-ready stage. Part of this will involve bringing fiber optics into the area, and also building roads.

After the roads are built, Carpenter says, they’ll be sold into the municipal bond market to recover costs, and to help raise money for future development on the site. “We’ll take the reimbursement for those funds in about one to three years,” he comments. “Those will appreciate in value.”

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