More than two years after being abandoned by DHL Express, the Wilmington, Ohio, air park is back on its feet.
Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (JLL), the Chicago-based real estate and logistics services giant, announced late Monday that it has begun marketing 2.5 million square feet of office, industrial, and aircraft hangar space at the air park for lease or build-to-suit development. The 2,000-acre facility, nestled in southwest Ohio, has 3 million square feet in all, with 500,000 square feet already occupied by Air Transport Services Group Inc. (ATSG), a provider of outsourced air-cargo transportation and related services to airlines and other companies.
JLL has begun work on a master redevelopment plan that will be submitted this November to the Clinton County (Ohio) Port Authority, which took control of the facility in mid-2010 after DHL transferred its ownership. Once the port authority approves the plan, JLL will move ahead with what David Lotterer, a senior associate at the firm, called "targeted marketing" aimed at attracting potential buyers, developers, or lessees.
The Monday announcement is significant because "it tells the world that the air park is back in business," Lotterer said.
Lotterer said the firm's final report will include recommendations on the most viable use of the facility. Prior to the transfer of ownership, the air park was the largest privately owned airport in the United States. Among its features are two large runways capable of handling aircraft of any size, Lotterer said.
Lotterer said the air park, located midway between Cincinnati and Columbus, still has enormous potential as either an air-cargo hub or as a distribution center. He said it will probably be positioned as a multi-use facility and that it is unlikely that a single private entity would ever again control it.
The former Airborne Express bought the air park from the city of Wilmington in 1980, 10 years after the U.S. Air Force abandoned it as a refueling depot. DHL took control of the facility when it bought Airborne in 2003 and said it made about $300 million in improvements in its seven years of ownership.
DHL's January 2009 decision to end domestic U.S. operations and dramatically curtail operations at the air park had a devastating impact on Wilmington and the seven surrounding counties. In Wilmington, with a population of less than 12,000, it was estimated that one of three households had someone employed at the air park at the time DHL ended U.S. operations there.
Today, DHL serves the U.S. market only as part of an international movement. Several months after ceasing domestic service, it moved those international operations to its hub in nearby Cincinnati, thus severing its ties with Wilmington.