PROPERTY MANAGEMENT EARNS ITS WINGS
While commercial office and retail spaces may be shrinking for a variety of
reasons including technological advances allowing for telecommuting and
online shopping, airports are expanding thanks to a global business environment and increased consumer travel.
System capacity in available seat miles—the overall measurement for how
busy aviation is—is projected to increase by 1. 5 percent in 2014 both domestically and internationally, according to the Federal Aviation Authority
report, Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2014–2034. It will then grow at an average annual rate of 2. 7 percent through 2034. Owens is seeing this growth
first hand at Miami’s Airport.
“We’re one of the fastest growing airports in the country,” he said. “To
accommodate that growth, a lot of planning and sound management is re-
The need for sound real estate management, however, has not always been
recognized, especially at airports with government oversight, said Mark
McMullen, CPM, assistant concessions manager of ground transportation
and passenger services with the Houston Airport System.
With government spending constrained because of the uncertain economy, he said governments have started to realize the importance of preserving
and maintaining airport facilities to lengthen their usable life and maximize
customer service. The focus is no longer solely on building new facilities.
“I think the airport culture has awakened to the fact that it is essential to
plan effectively and preserve assets in order to generate revenue,” McMullen
said. “Airports are recognizing the value of professional property management throughout the country and that the profession is both an art and science.”
The art and science of managing real estate can be particularly cumbersome
at airports, which are highly regulated venues.
Aside from adhering to FAA guidelines, general airports are subject to
the rules and regulations put forth by the government agencies that often
have a presence at their facilities—organizations ranging from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and TSA to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and
“We’re not short on being regulated,” Owens said, “but we know what the
regulations are, and we ensure to the best of our ability those regulations are
being followed to a T.”
Even at executive airports, where far fewer restrictions exist, regula-
tions—mostly related to safety and security—still impact operations, said
Tara Davis, CPM, regional director of properties and leasing for Sheltair,
an aviation company offering Fixed Base Operator and aviation real estate
development and property management services (like fueling and providing
hangars for private plane storage); property leasing and development; and
aviation-related construction and
She said the smallest property
maintenance decisions can have
big implications at an airport.
While putting up an exterior light
at a commercial office building
would likely be an uneventful pro-
cedure, such an action at an airport
needs clearance. Authorities need
to ensure additional lighting won’t
create safety hazards for pilots.
“Every airport is different in
terms of the regulations they are
subject to,” Davis said. “The more
reliant an airport is on government
funding, the more restrictions it
will have regarding security, tenant
type and facilities. Whatever the
limitations, real estate managers
need to work within the guidelines
because there could be lease compliance issues.”
Working within guidelines is easier when working with the proper
team, although the composition of
real estate management teams var-ies from airport to airport.
In Miami, the real estate and
concessions group leases all the
property owned by the aviation department, Owens said. The facilities maintenance group—made up
of locksmiths, painters, engineers,
environmentalists and architects—
keep up the airport. The land side
operations group manages parking
garages, ensures traffic flows freely
and keeps the land safe.
Owens, himself, is responsible
for all the revenue development areas of the airport, such as concessions, hospitality, real estate and PH