Aerotropolis developing in the Metro Clark Area

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It is noticeable that business establishments such as hotels and restaurants, and business parks for mixed use, among others, are sprouting like mushrooms in and around the Clark Freeport Zone, in Angeles City or practically the Metro Clark Area every so often. When one closes, another, or several others, take its place.

This phenomenon is nothing unusual, especially when one lives close to an international airport. And such is the case in Angeles City, Mabalacat City or the Metro Clark area for that matter, that are incredibly so close to one of the country’s gateways, the Clark International Airport (IATA: CRK).

What we are witnessing, ladies and gentlemen, is the groundwork for the development of an airport-driven metropolis that is known as an aerotropolis.

According to Wikipedia, an “aerotropolis” is a metropolitan sub-region where the layout, infrastructure, and economy are centered on an airport which serves as a multimodal “airport city” commercial core. It is similar in form to a traditional metropolis, which contains a central city commercial core andcommuter-linked suburbs. That is just like Metro Manila.

The term was re-purposed by air commerce researcher John D. Kasarda in 2000 based on his research on airport-driven economic development.

Research conducted by Kasarda showed that airports have become a center for business development in much the same way that seaports, railroads and highways in the past four centuries have become centers of trade and commerce and have expanded, spawning the development of a urban centers and later, metropolises.

However, seaports, railroads and highways, although still vital for the transport of goods, services and commerce between and within countries, have given way to modern times several years later following the successful first sustained and controlled powered flight by bicycle makers Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1903 that saw the development, a couple of decades later, of airplanes.

Airplanes need an airport. And with the development of an airport, aviation-related businesses are established around the periphery to support the airport, such as clearing houses, stockyards, logistics facilities, among others, in the case of cargo, and around these, commercial facilities that support the airport such a hotels, transport service providers and entertainment or tourism-related facilities in the case of commercial passenger flights.

Everything airport service providers and travelers need are established within an area encompassed by the aerotropolis: retail shops; sports, entertainment and recreational facilities or complexes; hotels; conference, trade and exhibition centers or what have become known as MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) facilities; as well as office spaces for business people.

One very good example is the Sabah Al-Ahmad Global Gateway Logistics City (GGLC) developed by the KGL Investment Company Asia (KGL I Asia) at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga that is banking its development and operation on the Clark International Airport and the road networks and the planned rail system anchored to the Clark Freeport Zone.

The 167-hectare Sabah Al-Ahmad GGLC property, a fully master-planned Logistics and Business Center of Excellence has about 5.8 million square meters of gross floor area, will be divided into four areas: a Logistics Park; a Business Park; an Aero Park where Phase I of the Aeropark Campus is currently undergoing construction; and, a Town Center. Projected occupants for the entire business park is over 340,000.

Also located at the GGLC, aside from logistics and business offices, is The Medical City Clark. With 48 years of experience in hospital operation and administration, the facility provides world-class healthcare to some 40,000 in-patients and 400,000 out-patients a year.

TMC boasts of a distinguished medical staff of some 1,000 physicians, all of whom are experienced and recognized experts in their various fields and has defined for itself a unique service philosophy in which the patient is viewed not as a problem to be solved or a charge to be cared for but as an equal and empowered partner, co-responsible for the attainment of his health goals.

Another such locator is Berthaphil Inc. that, since its inception in 1993, has attracted a diverse number of foreign locators who have chosen to lease office, factory and warehouse space, as well as, custom built IT facilities.

Berthaphil properties are include Berthaphil I; the Industrial Park, Berthaphil II; the Office Park; and The Clark Center (ICT Campus) around 25 present locators such as Sutherland and IQOR (India), Meisei Electronics (Japan), and H3 Electronics (Germany).

These developments in the confines of the Clark Freeport Zone are aside from the hotels and restaurants that have sprouted in the areas around the Clark Freeport Zone, also spawned by the presence of the Clark International Airport that has brought in thousands, nay, millions of tourists since commercial flights started coming in from 2003 sparked by operation of Asiana Airlines, among others.

In the past years, buildings have started emerging filling the once dark skyline with high-rises, particularly at the former red light district of Fields Avenue, Friendship and First Street all in the entertainment district of Barangay Balibago in Angeles City, ushering in the entry of more people and not just foreign tourists.

A Korea Town has also developed just a few minutes away from the Clark International Airport and just outside the Clark Freeport Zone where Korean, and later on, domestic and tourists of various nationalities, have been visiting, giving the local economy a boost by generating revenues and the much-needed jobs.

This is the beginning of the rise of an aerotropolis in our midst.