What to do with the old airport

May 11, 2009
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Weir Cook AirportA group of eighth grade girls from a local charter school spent all day Friday learning about real estate and developing plans for reuse of the old airport. The winning group pitched a hotel, water park and acquarium complex called Aqua-Tel. Their proposal, detailed down to a floorplan and wall finishes, will be presented to the airport's CEO. Other ideas from students at the Kipp School included an amusement park and hotel called The 317 Getaway, an amusement center with a spa, ice rink and roller rink called Recreation/Escape/Skate and a casino-hotel called Bling Bling that would create hundreds of jobs and be built with "green" features. The annual event, organized by the Indianapolis Chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women, is designed to encourage more young women to enter the male-dominated field. I had the privilege of helping to judge the plans.
  • After they're done with the airport, get them to work on the old MSA site.
  • yawn zzzzzzzzzzzz
  • The City of Austin used its old airport to promote Austin as an alternative place to film movies. Many of the old hangars there have been converted to sound stages. The terminal has also been used to film movie scenes as well.
  • Interesting idea, Gary.
  • Think Much Bigger

    The best reuse of the old terminal would be something distribution or manufacturing oriented which places a high value on multi modal transportation, not hospitality related industry. The large airplane tarmac, parking garage, and plenty of prime land should attract a significant development at least as large as the United maintenance hub.

    The city has developed billions of dollars worth of hospitality infrastructure downtown that is currently being underutilized. Resources would be better used by better connecting the airport with the stadiums, hotels, museums, universities, shopping, restaurants, etc. with light rail.
  • Curmudgeonly comments all-around! We're crtiticizing these 8th grade girls as if they've had no formal training in planning & development. Oh wait! They haven't. Is it so hard to believe that a bunch of middle school students would want to see theme parks at the old airport? Kudos to Kipp and Corey in encouraging these young girls - even if their ideas never come to fruition.

    On a professional note - I agree with Nick and Gary, this site should used to leverage more development for industries we're already soliciting - film and logisitics.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, as I often am, but aren't the old hangars, runways, etc. still in use? The only thing that is new is the terminal. Austin's solution is very creative, but not something that I could readily implement here. Also, I don't think a recreational use will be too big of a hit since jet engines a couple of hundred feet overhead do not lend themselves to a relaxing mood. What I can't believe is we've known for years this was coming, and we are just now trying to think of what to do. Who was in charge of (not) planning for this, the CIB?
  • Agreed that we are being hard on 8th grade girls. This was meant to start a discussion, not to slam a learning opportunity.
  • Why not use the old airport terminal as a revived mass-transit hub to get visitors to downtown? The city should develop a rail system with the old airport as the hub. There is plenty of parking, hotel rooms, direct access to the airport and convenient to the interstate system. Such a network would air travellers as well as those traveling by any other means to our downtown. The downtown has the old Union Station to handle the masses of people.

    We have a brand new airport and now realistic way to get people to the core of the city where all the venues are. Let's put smart transportation to work to benefit our entire city, not just a few sports nuts.
  • This is the same problem has plagued the area around the Lucas Stadium. During construction there was no FREAKING FORESIGHT to develop the are around the stadium just like there was no plan on what to do with the old airport. Shame!
  • Let's build something big and shiny and sure to be obsolete in 15 years that we can't afford, then give it rent free to that ungrateful Irsay...or we could build the world's biggest Applebee's.
  • As one of the founding members of IndyCREW (Indianapolis Commercial Real Estate) and a commercial real estate professional, I'd like to take an opportunity to clarify the purpose of CREW CAREERS. This is the second year of IndyCREW's Crew Careers.

    The purpose is to expose 8th grade girls to the field of commercial real estate. This is accomplished over the course of two days, the last which culminates in the competition. The participants have to prove their knowledge of commercial real estate terms, like highest and best use and return on investment and understand the different types of real estate in both their presentation and in the judge's Q&A.

    In proposing their ideas including water parks, amusement park, aquariums many of the team members cited the need for places for teens to go, places where families can spend quality & affordable time together and tourism as an economic driver.

    After the competition, the girls were asked who thought the two days would be boring and most of the room raised their hands. However, I am happy to say that when they were asked how many thought a career in commercial real estate ( as a developer, banker, architect, planner, broker or lawyer) might be something they would now consider, many hands popped up. Mission accomplished.

    Congratulations to all the 8th Graders from KIPP, their teachers and my colleagues in IndyCREW for a job well done!
  • Donna: Thanks for adding some more context!
  • I totally agree with Donna. As one of a few male members of Indy Crew I see every day the wonderful community work the association does for Indianapolis. This is but many projects Indy Crew takes on for the benefit of the community. Maybe next year for those that have made comments please join Indy Crew in assisting with this great crew careers program. This program exposes young women on the myraid of benefits that continuing their education brings.
  • Well stated, Donna, and it's so awesome to have an extremely positive development idea for young minds to embrace. Thanks for caring!!!

    Then, the blog has to be soured by the nonsensical gibberish and offensive comments of wing nuts like BLOGevich.
  • As I was preparing to throw my two cents in I realized that all I really needed was to write ditto to Nick's suggestion. He hit the nail on the head. A rational, cost effective, site appropriate plan.
  • Cheeris to INDY CREW and the bright young ladies who participated in the project.

    NICK & GIT'EM: The idea for a mass-transit hub is interesting and on the right track, though raises a few questions. (1) The old terminal is very isolated from the new terminal, unless one is willing to build a tram way under the runways as some airports have done. Otherwise shuttles and taxis are required to move people from the old to new, cutting down on efficiency and increasing commute times. (2) Is the old terminal's infrastructure sufficiently convertable to such a use? I suspect YES and the parking garage could house rental cars, etc freeing up land for more industrial development. (3) The bigger issue of whether or not the city can support light-rail by fees from ridership. I hope we are developing a culture that can and will.

    The isolation issue - nearly a 6 mile trip on the interstate door-to-door - begs the need for an intermediatry more direct and efficient linking the two.
  • Forgive me for not writing my support for this program and its organizers/supporters in my earlier post before offering my own suggestions for a challenge I consider very important to our community.

    Suggestion: Please consider introducing the concept of zoning to help focus the proposals and make the exercise more interesting and fun next year.
  • JG,

    The Airport Authority has already configured the new midfield terminal in a fashion that could easily accommodate the build out of light rail to downtown and help with development of the old terminal property.

    While right of way and dual freight/passenger usage on the existing CSX rail line might present problems, they could easily be overcome with a new rail line on existing street right aways OR down the city owned right of way that was created when the airport was established which connects the city to the airports property.

    As far as a business model for the rail line, I would suggest the creation of a regional transit authority which includes IndyGO and the Indianapolis Airport Authority which should jointly contribute, share and distribute user fees and local/state/federal funding. The energy savings, coordinated planning, alignment of common interests, convention and tourism boost, and assistance in the elimination of Indianapolis's non-attainment air pollution designation would surely be enough justification to move forward.
  • Don't forget we need to upgrade the proposed high speed rail corridor next to the airport which connects Chicago, Indy, Cincinnati and Louisville.

    This should be a high state priority with all the proposed Federal funding available and it would dovetail into a redevelopment tool for the old airport terminal.

    INDOT (Indiana Department of Roads) needs to help or get out of the way.
  • NICK: That's great the HSR will be traveling near the airport. Definitely you are correct a central indiana transportation authority needs to be created to oversee and coordinate bus, rail, and air transportation issues in the metro area.

    I still question, based on location, how good the old terminal would be for a transit center linking HSR, rail, car rental and bus. In addition to the other issues I mentioned, coordinating with HSR lines would be a challenge with the old terminal siting over 1/2 mile south of the rail lines. I hate not reusing older buildings, but would building a new facility be cheaper and more convenient? I don't know, but worth considering.

    I do hope this vision is realized - and the city can have both HSR and a metropolitan light rail.
  • Corey and Donna - who knew that a blog post about a one-day crash course in commercial real estate for 8th grade girls would incite such an interesting dialogue on the airport re-use?! Thank you both for participating on our judging panel, I appreciate your support.
  • Donna,
    A great project indeed. Reminds me of Lilly Endowment's Youth Leadership Program that I took part in many years ago.
    It would be interesting to know if the girls got to tour the facility and get to meet the Airport Authority/Administration and receive any information from them? The irony here would be the AA's mostly male demographic.
    Additional Information:
    FedEx is landlocked in Memphis, and can only grow here. Look for them to take the old terminal or at least the tarmac and postition themselves for the 3rd runway.

    Is it ironic that BerwickGuy is commenting on gibberish and offensive comments?
  • Here's a link for some to look at:

  • Nick, JG, Scott and anyone else intereted --
    We would love to have the expertise to add ZONING to the agenda. If any of you would like to volunteer your time for next years CREW CAREERS, please let me know.
  • BLOGojevich,

    For the record, Irsay pays $250,000 a year for use of the Stadium, and I read somewhere with other fees it is closer to $1 million. Far from rent free.

    As far as the airport, demo the old terminal and use it for future warehousing,hangars or whatever. We had to move an interstate due to landlocking, lets make sure we have a good use for this before we just start building
  • It's obvious. A 1000 foot sentinel tower dedicated to all of the memorials we already have. It would act as a modern day 'lighthouse' for incoming airline traffic. To pay for it, a greyhound racing facility surrounding it with 50,000 seats and a adjoining casino with a PETA regional office. The rest of the space could be all day parking for $30. The entire operation could be managed by the CIB.
  • You forgot the racino attached to the greyhound track. :)
  • I love the idea of an Aquarium in Indy. I nkow the Zoo has a great dolphin exhibit, but a full-scale like the Shedd in Chciago would be fantastic. Obviously it needs to be downtown though.
  • George Orwell. You're a genius...mad genius! That's as plausible as anything else mentioned here.

    Really, let the girls go at it. Any idea is a good idea considering this space. Outside of the office building, what practical alternative is there for the terminal part of the terminal, other than a wrecking ball? It's hardly a structure of any historic or architectural worth, and hardly usable as it stands now.

    Okay, as I think about this, there's some practical retail use there, and parking...yet another outlet mall? A restaurant and club with a view? Everybody likes to watch airplanes. No? How bout a super collider, wind tunnel? Really kind of tough, outside of some large governmental or aviation use, sounds like a decision to be made by the free market.
  • What is Indiana doing to upgrade the states rail lines for higher speed rail?

    Not much.

    U.S Secretary of Transportation Mr. LaHood did not point to any particular short-coming in what Midwestern states are doing, but Indiana is known to be less enthusiastic about 110-mile-per-hour trains than other states, and Mr. LaHood said his department would appreciate having one person to call in this part of the country.

  • CrossedWires:

    Is your moniker code for gay? Hey, I'm just asking, no intent to offend. Seems as if I struck a nerve before somehow? Why is it anymore that people can't have thoughts without being labeled as offending when there is no intent to offend? Perhaps we all need to quit looking for ways to BE offended.
  • That $250K a year from Irsay should pay off the stadium bonds in what, never? Obviously, it doesn't even pay the utilities. You really believe that's significant?

    Something, I don't know, let's say... perhaps within $40 million of the ~$48 million a year needed to pay off the bonds might be considered substantial.
  • How about an airport?
  • Casino
    Why not take the old airport and turn it into a casino. It's away from down town it already has parking. Shuttle people from the new airport to the casino. Get it ready for the 2012 Super Bowl. Thanks for reading

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