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What's the Deal with the Aerotropolis?

by Marc Perri

What's the Deal with the Aerotropolis?

By Marc Perri

from Mayday Magazine

Up on the mountain, surrounded by fields and trees, is The Hamilton International Airport. Humble beginnings this airport had, way back in 1940. At the time, the airport was primarily used for military operations, such as flight training and air navigation.

After World War II, the airport made the transition to commercial uses. By 1986, the airport had expanded to accommodate increased cargo and passenger transportation. As the large airports around Southern Ontario, such as Pearson and Niagara International, became overly busy and crowded, Hamilton International became the go to spot for commercial flights. Cheaper costs, and better access were what attracted the business to the airport. Today, the airport is Canada’s largest courier/cargo airport and its passenger flights are growing.

The airport is well positioned, with access to major highway transportation systems and has a low volume of traffic. No wonder the idea came about to expand the airport to attract more more businesses in the area. This brings me to the main issue. The Airport Employment Growth District, better known by the catchy name, The Aerotropolis.

Those of you familiar with Hamilton International know that it is situated among prime agricultural lands. Standing in the airport and looking out, you see rolling fields with a few scattered farm houses and woods. Currently, not much is being done with the land up there, just a few farms, a lot of sod production, and a driving range or two. It seems to be perfect land to plough over and build on top of. And that is the plan.

The Aerotropolis began coming together in 2006, when the Ontario Municipal Board allowed the city to study the land around the airport for future commercial expansion. They found that its proximity to the airport and major highways was ideal for commercial zoning.

Since 2006, plans have been made, attacked, and ratified again and again. Currently, the city intends to rezone 1, 635 acres surrounding the airport from agricultural land to commercial land. It was forecast, by Dillon Consulting group in June of 2010, that by 2031 this new growth district will generate upwards of 24, 000 jobs for Hamiltonian’s, and positively affect the cities revenue.

But there are some other factors at play behind the scenes here. First off, let’s talk money. In the forecasts, it is said, that this project will cost the city $352,000,000. That’s a lot of money, even for a city with over half a million people. For the sake of comparison, the much-debated new stadium will cost the city $45,000,000. The problem is this figure only accounts for the costs incurred within the boundaries of the Aerotropolis site. There are many costs that are unaccounted for, such as an approximate $130,000,000 toward the new sewage system necessary for the plan to go through. Of course, more roads and highway access are necessary as well. When you add it all up, the costs could be more than double the proposed $352,000,000. We better be getting those jobs, and they better be good jobs.


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