Thursday, February 08, 2018

City leaders optimistic after Glendale Municipal Airport (KGEU) turbulent decade

Richard Goldman, President of Glendale Airport Pilot association, works on his Beechcraft 60 Duke at Glendale Municipal Airport on February 1st, 2018.

Glendale Municipal Airport was flying high when the city's sports and entertainment district opened more than a decade ago and leaders envisioned its higher profile attracting corporate jets and business. Then came the crash.

Along with the Great Recession, there were lawsuits.

A decade later, flight operations at the airport remain about half of what they were in 2007. While Glendale airport isn't alone in that, its dive was steeper.

City leaders say that is beginning to turn around. Legal disputes over land and with pilots are long settled, the city expects to open airport property for development and millions of dollars in upgrades continue, from extending the runway to repaving. 

The airport, sprawling across more than 500 acres off Glendale Avenue just west of Loop 101, is slowly growing again, Trevor Ebersole, Glendale's transportation director, said.

He ticks off a list: More jobs at the airport. More flight schools. More aircraft based there. 

But his goal is to make airport operations financially self-sufficient and increase its economic pull for the city. This year's city budget projects the airport will need a subsidy of just under $150,000.

Opening land for growth

Glendale hopes to attract businesses to roughly 95 acres of undeveloped land — 75 acres east of the runway and 20 acres to the south.

The city expects to hire a real-estate broker to market the land to prospective companies within a year, Ebersole said.

Much of the land was embroiled in lawsuits years ago. John F. Long Properties had donated the land for a second runway and took it to court when the city scrapped those plans. The two sides eventually settled in 2005 with an agreement to study whether a second runway was needed. But the company again grew concerned when the city leased the land to a private developer in the boom years. Those plans withered along with lending in the recession.

By 2015, a study showed the second runway wasn't needed, allowing Glendale to lease the land to businesses, Ebersole said. A city spokeswoman said Glendale now has a healthy working relationship with John F. Long Properties.

Joe Husband, interim airport administrator, left, Richard Goldman, president of Glendale Airport Pilot Association, and Trevor Ebersole, transportation director, talk at Glendale Municipal Airport on February 1st, 2018.

Interim Airport Administrator Joe Husband said he'd love to see a large employer plant roots at the airport.

"I think all airports are interested in landing that great big employment center like a Boeing manufacturing or assembly plant or those kinds of things," he said.

While that would be a nice get, Husband said the city's open to any business that complements the airport.

"At all times your highest priority is to make sure that the development around an airport is compatible with the airport. There are certain uses, like residential, that aren't necessarily compatible being right next to an airport," he said.

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