Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Huge Air Cargo Facility Proposed for Airport

Dallas-based real estate company Crow Holdings proposing 337,000-square-foot facility.

By - May 4th, 2024 01:08 pm

Air cargo facility site plan by ARCO Murray.

Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport is working with a Texas real estate developer to potentially build a massive air cargo airplane facility adjacent to the airport grounds.

The project, which is in the early stages of development, would create a 337,000-square-foot air cargo facility on the site of the MKE Regional Business Park. To facilitate the movement of planes around the new cargo area, nearly half a million square feet of aircraft ramp would be redeveloped, making room for up to five Boeing 747-400 aircraft at any given time.

The project is being driven by Dallas-based Crow Holdings, one of the largest real estate owners in the U.S. The firm would cover all of the project’s development costs and is working with Diamond Realty Investments, a national real estate investment firm based in Dallas. The airport also plans to go after federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law entitlement funds to fund the development of the ramp and taxiway for the project, said Harold Mester, a spokesperson for the airport. Crow Holdings has agreed to pay the required local match for the grant.

Harlan Crow, a Republican megadonor, is chairman of the board for Crow Holdings. Crow recently found himself in hot water after Pro Publica reported that the billionaire had, for many years, been giving Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas expensive gifts, which Thomas did not disclose.

Before it was the MKE Regional Business Park, the development site was formerly an airbase for the 440th Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force. The unit was based in Milwaukee from the 1950s until 2008. The airport assumed control of the site in 2005 after the unit left. A 2020 environmental investigation at the airport found PFAS chemical contamination on the site. The chemicals, which have been used in firefighting foams since the 1970s, are linked to increased risk for cancer and other health issues.

“Given its prior use, it is not surprising that the site has a considerable amount of PFAS,” the airport reported.

The airport has advertised the property for lease since taking it over, and in 2021 Crow Holdings approached the airport about the air cargo development, according to a report by airport officials for the Milwaukee County Board. It has taken two years for the firm and the airport to develop a PFAS remediation plan that will allow the project to move forward.

Currently, the development contract between Crow Holdings and the airport is structured to incentivize Group V aircraft, which are the heaviest class of aircraft by weight, to use the facility. And the airport assesses landing fees based on aircraft weight.

“With a maximum landed weight of 652,000 pounds, each 747-400 is expected to generate $1.3 million in landing fees annually, with a total potential increased collection of $6.5 million,” according to the airport report.

The airport also expects to collect as much as $1.1 million in rent annually for the facility. However, a lease agreement with Crow Holdings has not been finalized, Mester said.

The airport did not offer a cost estimate for the project, and Mester said this estimate will need to come from Crow Holdings. A representative of Crow Holdings could not be reached for comment prior to publication.

The new cargo facility would allow planes with cargo headed for Milwaukee and Wisconsin to more readily land at Milwaukee Mitchell, as opposed to airports in Illinois, according to the airport, which also said the facility could reduce freight trucking along the state’s freeways and the pollution associated with that trucking.

Read the full Milwaukee Mitchell report on the project on Urban Milwaukee.

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Categories: MKE County, Real Estate

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