Site Selection Magazine
Airport City Takes Shape
Will New York's fourth major air hub become a landing strip for companies?
by Ron Starner
When locals received word that the . U.S. Armed Forces would close the old Stewart Air Force Base in Hudson Valley, N.Y., many thought the closure would spell ruin for the area economy.
Two entrepreneurial brothers thought otherwise, and now they are sitting on a potential gold mine.
Kevin and Chris Bette took over development for the land around what is now Stewart Internationa] Airport on the advice of a former Harvard classmate. The old school chum now runs development at the cargo hub in Texas known as Fort Worth Alliance Airport, the fastest growing industrial complex in the U.S.
"When we heard that the air base was being closed, a lot of the locals thought it was terrible for the economy," says Kevin Bette, president of First Columbia,a major development company in Latham, N.Y. "But we knew the potential of air-side development. We had an inkling of what the future could hold for that site. We felt that was the place to invest our future."
Bette notes that while "nothing is- easy" when it comes to real estate development and "it has taken a little while" to see a payoff, his company is 'now closer than ever to realizing its dream of developing Metropolitan New York's first airport city.
Bette credits Gonway Data and Site Selection founder and chairman Mac Conway, author of the book Airport Cities in the 1970s, with providing "much of the inspiration for the master plan for this development."
That development, now known as New York International Plaza, will have 2.5 million sq, ft (232,250 sq. m.) of mixed use space upon build-out and could become home to dozens of corporate employers, says Bette. "The future sets up quite well."
About 55 miles (89 km.) north of New York City, New York International Plaza (NYIP) covers 260 acres (105 hectares) in the town of New Windsor. The park, which includes a New York Empire Zone and a federal Foreign Trade Zone, is located at the intersection of the New York State Thruway and interstate 84. The site is close to the Metro North Hudson River Line and the New Jersey Transit Port Jervis line, two commuter lines serving Hudson Valley.
First Columbia has developed 400,000 sq. ft. (37,160 sq. m.) of office, industrial, retail and other space in the Orange County complex. Companies doing business there include ENAP Inc., a building materials firm that moved its headquarters to NYIP. last year; Cincinnati-based LSI/Lightron, which built its Northeast U.S. headquarters on site; Westchester Cardiology; State Farm Insurance; Hudson Valley Imaging; OxyVita; American Petroleum; Empire State Development; and the Hudson Valley Economic Development . Corp.
With office rents about 50 percent lower than the average found in New York City, NYIP is an affordable option for growing companies seeking a Northeast presence, says Bette.
"People want ease of transportation, security and low cost. We as developers have to fill a need in the marketplace," he-says. "We want knowledge-based jobs that capitalize on the educational resources in the region. This is a perfect location for a business wanting to serve the Northeast U.S. market because it sits right in the middle of the Boston-to-Washington, D.C., corridor."
One roadblock to more companies selecting NYIP has been the lack of direct access to I-84, but Bette said that is changing with a new interchange set to open in 2007.
"We've been talking to a number of prospective tenants. They have delayed their decisions, pending the road access," he said. "We've talked to a number of major financial institutions. We hope to land these firms next year. Our challenge has been to get all of the road improvements finished. Without access, we could be in Bismarck, North Dakota."