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Airport panel backs added parking, retail for ABIA

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 by Michael Kanin

The city’s Airport Advisory Commission Tuesday approved two separate developments that would bring a host of potential retail facilities, more parking, and perhaps a so-called “pet and jet” boarding kennel to the area immediately surrounding Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Council members will weigh in on the deals at their August 8 meeting.


The advisory commission welcomed the retail plan with suggestions of a return to the glory days of aviation, when people would come to an airport just to eat. Commissioners approved the deal unanimously.


The potential new parking facility was not so warmly welcomed. Though it eventually passed with five yes votes, Commissioner James Kelsey raised concerns about a 10-year option associated with the deal. He abstained from the vote.


Commissioner D’Ann Johnson was absent. 


If approved by Council, the 13-acre retail development would slot in between the existing cell phone parking lot and the airport’s Hilton Hotel. It would proceed in up to four phases, and could lock the city into a 40-year agreement – when the fourth phase of the project would be exercised.


The first phase of the project will include a convenience store and gas station “and at least one restaurant.”


City documents show that the deal would net the Austin 40 cents a square foot per year for each square foot of land developed by the project. That rate would be adjusted at five-year intervals.


On top of those earnings, the city would collect a penny for each gallon of gas delivered to the gas station and a cut of potential revenues. Assistant Aviation Department Director Shane Harbison told commissioners that the new retail project could serve hotel guests, cell phone lot users, and members of the Del Valle community.


Developers are awaiting Council action to sign agreements with potential retail outlets. They told Commissioners Tuesday that there is interest in the project.


Council members authorized lease negotiations with the development group, ABIA Retail LLC, in August 2009.


The parking facility would feature an off-site, covered lot operated by the former proprietors of Parking Express – an operation that was purchased and turned into the current Parking Spot. Under the potential agreement, the new facility would initially hold 2000 spaces across Highway 183 from the Hilton.


It could be expanded, over 10-years’ worth of options, to include more parking across Highway 71. That effort would bring the total spaces available to 6500. It could also include the “pet and jet” operation, which would be connected with the new parking lots.


The deal is the result of a city request for proposals.


The agreement would net the city dollars from a lease of the land – initially set at 45 cents a square foot – and “an escalating percentage” of the operation’s gross revenues. Kelsey wondered why options on the additional space included in the deal were extended over 10 years.


“It seems like there is a potential revenue opportunity lost as a result of that,” he said. “Why would we do that?”


Staff did not answer the question.

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