The city of Tulsa wants to use its rich aviation history and wealth of related property to create new economic opportunities.
To that end, the city plans to invest $11 million into three buildings at Air Force Plant No. 3 — or AFP3 — at Tulsa International Airport. A holdover from World War II, when more than 3,000 aircraft were manufactured in the facility, AFP3 contains more than 2.9 million square feet of industrial space, practically all of which is leased, said Kian Kamas, the city’s chief of economic development.
“If you think about the magnitude of those facilities and the employers that call those facilities home, they are one of the city’s greatest economic engines,” she said. “There are not that many cities across the U.S. that have the luck to own several million square feet of prime industrial real estate.”
Of the $11 million targeted for buildings 116, 5 and 6, a total of $8.4 million is expected to be raised through bonds issued via the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority and $2 million by way of a grant through the Vision Tulsa Airport Infrastructure Fund. A $500,000 brownfields grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, along with a 20% Vision Tulsa match ($100,000), has been secured to do asbestos abatement in the structures.
Two of the buildings (Nos. 116 and 5) are leased by local aerospace manufacturer NORDAM for storage, Kamas said. American Airlines had leased the third before its contract expired in July, she said. The total area of the three buildings is about 288,632 square feet, Kamas said.
“Our goal is to turn these buildings from just storage facilities that have a moderate impact on the broader economy to facilities that are suitable for human occupancy and light manufacturing,” Kamas said. “This is about how do we increase the economic impact that these facilities can have.”
Among the tenants in AFP3 are Spirit AeroSystems, IC Bus (a subsidiary of Navistar), NORDAM and Ameristar Fencing.
Late last year, Spirit AeroSystems announced it was expanding its Tulsa site by hiring about 250 employees and investing at least $80 million in capital projects to support fuselage manufacturing and assembly work. The city also plans to support that project by pouring $5 million in Vision Tulsa funds into parking lot upgrades and road infrastructure, Kamas said.
Brownfields are commercial-industrial properties that are abandoned or underused and have or potentially have environmental contamination making them hard to redevelop. The city envisions the asbestos abatement of all the buildings — starting with No. 6 — to be complete by the end of the second quarter, said Michelle Barnett, deputy chief of economic development.
“The goal is when the funds are available Oct. 1 (start of the federal fiscal year), we will have a design in place to get started and move this project forward very quickly,” she said.
Immediate upgrades will focus on plumbing, electrical and HVAC improvements, Kamas said.
“We’ve been very excited to have partners like our existing tenants who are able to help us think through what our possible solutions with these investments are,” she said. “We’re making sure we’re leveraging these assets so they have the greatest economic impact possible because we think they’ve been underutilized at this point.
“Storage is still a valuable use to American and NORDAM. But as you can see, the next 10, 20, 50 years, we think they have a more productive use than just storage.”
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