Plans heat up for development at Opa-locka
By Sherri C. Ranta
Developers of commercial projects proposed for Opa-locka Airport, one of the county's five general aviation sites, await local and federal approvals before they can begin operations.
Federal Aviation Authority officials are reviewing plans submitted by Opa-Locka Aviation Group for construction of aviation-related facilities, such as those for shipping companies, said John Hamill, company president. County officials have approved the plans.
The company's 1999 lease with Miami-Dade County, he said, originally allowed for development of commercial flights at Opa-locka, but a vote by Miami-Dade County commissioners in 2000 put a stop to the company's initial plans.
"We didn't like the fact that they changed to a non-commercial airport," Mr. Hamill said. "But we're doing everything we can to be good, supportive team players." County and federal officials began reviewing alternate plans several years ago.
Mr. Hamill said he thinks designating Opa-locka as a commercial airport would be good for business because low-cost carriers continue to move to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where the cost of doing business is lower.
"The county has got to come to grips with a couple of things," Mr. Hamill said. "They are losing market share. Lauderdale is jumping ahead of them by leaps and bounds."
Aviation consultant Hernan Galindo, executive vice president, AvMan Miami, said Opa-locka is a "good relief location" but whatever happens must be looked at from the community's point of view.
"It has great potential if the city or the community would want to make something greater out of it. Now, basically it's limited to private aviation, US Coast Guard activities and executive jet service."
Fixed base operator J.P. Aviation, another leaseholder at Opa-locka Airport, applied to the county aviation department in July for approval for subleases and development agreements for construction of hangars, a fuel facility, offices and a restaurant, said Jim Robinson, company president. All subleases at the airport must be approved by the county.
An agreement with Turnberry Airport Hangars, he said, calls for a $10 million development for aircraft and support services. The company had been at Opa-locka 25 years but moved to Broward County.
"We're trying to get them back," Mr. Robinson said.
Initial plans call for construction of about 150,000 square feet of space including a hangar and office.
Mr. Robinson and a partner are awaiting approvals for another sublease to build a fuel facility on 12 acres to include retail, offices and a small restaurant.
J.P. Aviation, he said, is one of four and the largest fixed base operator at Opa-locka with 160,000 square feet of hangars, a fuel facility and about 45 tenants.
Renaissance Airpark developer Charles Pasquale, another leaseholder at the airport, is looking for a co-developer, said Eric Person, senior vice president, Grubb & Ellis. Plans call for retail space on Red Road with industrial and aviation development to back up to the runways.
"Due to the lengthy period of approvals, the developer's resources have been stretched a bit," Mr. Person said. "He's in the process of looking for partners or other entities that would join him in the development process."
"The market is strong," Mr. Person. "A lot of people are interested in the project - that I can say with certainty."