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All aboard the aerotropolis

Airports have always been a city's outlying curiosity. But in the next 10 years, they could just become the heart of the city, the place around which you meet, work and live, with urban planners and governments advocating the idea of the 'aerotropolis'.
An aerotropolis is an urban complex with layout, infrastructure and economy centered on the airport. Just like the traditional metropolis with a city centre and rings of suburbs, the aerotropolis consists of an airport city core and outlying corridors and clusters of aviation-linked businesses. Many of these businesses are more dependent on suppliers and customers around the globe than local residents.

"As globalization and time-based competition increase, the aerotropolis will become a magnet for firms requiring speedy connectivity to distant markets. It will also become a major urban destination in its own right where air travellers and locals will work, shop, meet, eat, exchange knowledge, conduct business, and be entertained without going more than 15 minutes from the airport, "says John D Kasarda, director, Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.

Kasarda, who has been advocating the idea of the aerotropolis since 1991, says that India has a rich aerotropolis future. The Hyderabad aerotropolis is planned on 5, 500 acres of land with aerospace, hospitality, logistics, convention, health, education and entertainment ports. "The Hyderabad aerotropolis is exemplary. A great deal of thought and planning has gone into its design and development. India is developing many new airports on greenfield sites and modernizing existing airports. The aviation ministry's support also points to more aerotropolis successes in future, "says Kasarda, who published Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next earlier this year and was a consultant on the Hyderabad project.

He explains that London and New York airports are surrounded by commercial and residential development that is not really related to the airport. In contrast, South Korea's New Songdo aerotropolis, which has grown around Incheon International Airport, has high-speed trains and six-lane highways connecting neighbourhoods and business districts. Rents at Amsterdam's Schiphol aerotropolis are higher than anywhere else the in Netherlands.

"The aerotropolis represents the urban physical form of globalization. Airports will shape business location and urban development in the 21st century as much as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th and seaports in the 18th, "says Kasarda.

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