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11 Dec

John Atkins' Guest Blog: Aerotropolis

A Time Magazine article stated that aerotropolis is ‘one of the ten ideas that will change the world’ and it is a challenge to all those major cities that have embraced the aerotropolis concept.

"The days when we built our airports around cities now seem distant; in the new, mobile century, we build our cities around airports."

In this guide, our Non-Executive Director John Atkins looks at what's driving this idea and how the concept is set to shape Manchester in the coming years.


Defining the aerotropolis and Airport City

Firstly, there is a need to differentiate the Airport City from the Aerotropolis. An Airport City is well-defined as the commercial development supporting major airports around the world – as wide spread as Amsterdam, Munich, Manchester, Beijing, and Seoul.

Airport Cities tend to be mixed use developments clustering at the Airport - taking advantage of what the Airport operation offers - speed of movement in terms of people and goods, which is a potentially priceless advantage in an ever-more connected and competitive world. The clustering is around the nodes of the terminals, stations and road interchanges serving the Airport.

The aerotropolis is a trickier and less defined concept. Some examples are around whole new planned cities in the Middle East and Far East, where the concept is embraced around a highly connected City Centre and new airport. In the west, the concept has to take account of years of commercial and planning decisions to create the dense and complex urban areas that we see in Europe.

However, Manchester as an example, does have a highly connected City Centre and Airport and the Airport is integral to the City offer, both from a competitive perspective and also physically by road, rail and recently in 2014, by tram. The investment in these facilities is more than £600m in public transport alone. More than any other area outside the City centre. The suburbs are now connected by tram and the Airport, science parks, hospitals, business parks, town centres, and universities are now connected and offer that ease of movement.

When defining the product of Airport City Manchester, the review took in examples of Airport Cities throughout the world and defined a mixed use model, with hotels, offices, advanced manufacturing and logistics facilities clustered around the station and motorway interchanges.


The Future

In 20 years’ time, Manchester Airport will be offering an even wider selection of destinations and frequency of services. Airport City Manchester is now off the ground, with the delivery in place and Manchester Airport Group retaining a 50% equity interest alongside Carillion (20%), BCG (20%) and Greater Manchester Pension Fund (10%).

The Chinese investments will have created new trading routes and Manchester as a City and the wider northern area will benefit from the investment.  The strength of the City and its Airport will be providing that competitive edge and be changing our world.

The first developments include the DHL distribution hub and Mountpark’s 275,000 sq ft distribution unit. A further 85,000 sq ft logistics unit and a hotel, both with planning consent, are set to follow shortly.

Manchester is therefore well-positioned to benefit from this emerging global culture in the coming decades.


And you?

If you've got any thoughts on the aerotropolis or want to quiz us about how this trend might affect the UK development landscape in the coming years, be sure to leave a comment or get in touch via Twitter.

And if you're looking for advice on any upcoming developments – don't hesitate to get in touch with NJL today.


Pictures sourced via Flickr (Emran Kasslm and Jason Puddephatt)

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