Sunday, September 05, 2021

City will negotiate lease for corporate hangar at Dillant-Hopkins Airport (KEEN)

In an effort to address a lack of hangar space at the Dillant-Hopkins Airport, the city of Keene has agreed to negotiate a lease with a local developer who is interested in constructing a corporate-sized hangar at the Swanzey facility.

On Thursday, the Keene City Council unanimously voted to direct City Manager Elizabeth Dragon to work out an agreement with Avanru Development, which is based in Walpole, to build a 12,000-square-foot hangar. Airport Director David Hickling said the project would provide in-demand space for area pilots looking for somewhere local to house their planes. 

"We have a great airport here in the community, and that's being shown because we have a lot of people that want to base their airplanes here," Hickling told the council's Planning, Licenses and Development Committee in late August. "We actually have a hangar shortage and a lot of people waiting to get in here." 

Hickling said a number of people have recently expressed interest in building hangar space at the airport, and the proposal from Avanru President and CEO Jack Franks is the first one to be brought to the council for consideration. Avanru is also working on a pair of 42-unit apartment buildings on Route 10 in Swanzey. 

Hickling said the new airport structure would be corporate-sized hangar, allowing the airport to accommodate larger jets.

Asked how many planes the proposed hangar would be able to accommodate, Franks said it depends on the size of the plane but noted that the structure will be designed to hold a wide variety of aircraft, including helicopters. 

Franks, who did not speak at either the August PLD Committee meeting or Thursday's council meeting, told The Sentinel Sunday that he has a background in aviation as well as development. He said he is a pilot with a degree from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has main campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz.

Avanru Development is growing, Franks said, and he soon plans to expand his operation into neighboring states, which he says will increase the need for air travel. The idea is to use the new hangar for his company's needs, while also making space available to others, he explained. 

"The game plan is to build a hangar to serve as the base of operations for our development company," he said, "but also to serve the needs of transient aircraft that would frequent the [airport]." 

Franks said he's aware of the hangar shortage in the area and that it has been an issue for quite a while. He added that he's excited to work with city officials on a project that he says will benefit not only his company and the city but the rest of the community as well.

The new hangar will be built adjacent to the terminal, he noted, in the vicinity of the airport's existing hangars.  

During the PLD Committee meeting, where members unanimously voted to recommend that the council agree to the lease proposal, Councilor Mitch Greenwald noted that he is the council's representative on the city's Airport Development and Marketing Committee, which he said supports the lease proposal. 

Councilor Philip Jones noted that the project would have a positive economic effect, saying it would lead to more planes being registered at the airport and more fuel and services being sold at the airport. The lease itself also provides additional revenue for the city. 

"As long as I've been on the council, one of our goals was always to get taxpayer subsidizing of the airport down," Jones said on Thursday. "And this is a good step towards that." 

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