‘This Is What Airports Do,’ Part 1
As part of Kansas City officials’ effort to convince voters that we need a new airport terminal, Mayor Sly James appointed a task force. At the Airport Terminal Advisory Group’s June 18 meeting, Kansas City Aviation Department Administrator Mark Van Loh gave a presentation about airport operations.
During his talk, Van Loh mentioned that the airport hired a company called Trammel Crow Co. to develop a portion of the land not used for aviation and that the airport now has a tenant, Blount International. According to Van Loh, Blount moved to Kansas City from Colorado. “This is what airports do,” he said, to increase their revenue.
It may be what airports do, but it is having very negative effects on the Kansas City area. First, Blount International did not move into the airport space from Colorado. It moved there from the East Bottoms, where it had, for decades, rented considerable space from Karbank Real Estate Company LLP, a successful Kansas City-based property developer.
This is a bad deal for the region in at least two ways. As the Aviation Department is part of city government, it can develop property at a small fraction of the cost that private companies pay. It does not have to conduct the myriad of impact assessments such as traffic impact fees and platting fees, as do private companies, nor does it have to pay things such as city utility taxes. The government can therefore undercut private businesses and charge much less for rent. The city’s tenants pay no taxes, which depresses the market rates, which in turn decreases values across the city, having a huge negative effect on property values city-wide and certainly to the airport sub-market.
The Aviation Department has made it clear that it will continue to operate as a property developer and landlord to offset its own deficits. In effect, the airport is cannibalizing the city’s tax base and creating hardships for private developers.