Hamilton’s airport poised to be the city’s next big industrial ambition

Brought to you by Forge & Foster Investment Management.

For decades, Hamilton has been seen as a hotbed for production in part by its advantageous geographic location and features. To this day, the Port of Hamilton is the busiest of all the Great Lake ports and the 4th busiest in the entire country.

Hamilton’s airport, the John C. Munro International Airport, is now having its moment — poising itself as an ulterior option for modern industrial ambition.

For the past few years the Hamilton airport has received regular attention from prospective real estate developers. Residential development transactions such as LIV Developments purchasing 127 acres of land for $30 million northwest of the airport in September signifies that families will be moving to the area — but it’s a brushstroke in the larger picture of what’s to come for the area.

The City of Hamilton has identified the area immediately surrounding the airport as the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD). The AEGD includes 551 hectares of developable employment land along with airport-specific industrial zoning to help develop and support the airport and by extension, the city, for future growth.

MP Filomena Tassi announced that the Government of Canada will invest $18.5 million for an Airfield Rehabilitation and Modernization Project, June 2019

One of the largest and enticing attributes of the airport is its lack of curfew restrictions, which provides planes the ability to land or take off whenever required. Logistical and last mile warehousing development is also expected to begin in the near future.

In the last two years, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport has become North America’s fastest growing airport and the busiest night time cargo airport in the country. Last year, ridership was up 32% year over year to 955,373 passengers with cargo activity up by 21%.

This has led existing tenant DHL to expand by building a new $100 million 200,000 square-foot facility, which effectively quadrupled its previous space and will include a new cargo flight between London, UK and Hamilton.

The Hamilton Spectator reported that DHL has witnessed the number of packages shipped to Canada double since 2014 with 60% coming through Hamilton.

Panattoni, an international sized company – whose previous clients include Unilever and Coca-Cola – purchased 82 acres of land by Aeropark Blvd in 2018, which has already broken ground and is now pre-leasing “Aeropark”.

The first of Panattoni’s developments – 50 Aeropark Blvd – is a $30 million project that will accommodate 264,535 square-feet of logistical space, while the next phase will be more than 1,000,000 square-feet. All of this is being built speculatively, meaning without a tenant in place as that’s how voracious activity has been at the Hamilton airport.

In November 2019, Panattoni acquired a further 87 acres north of the Airport on Dickenson Rd.

A few months earlier in June 2019, Rice Group purchased 53 acres south of Aeropark, which is expected to become further warehousing infrastructure. Interesting of note is that their website claims a total of 86 acres being available.

More recently in January 2020, 53 acres of land were purchased south of the airport by a private individual and in February 2020, Broccolini Construction, a large developer of varying asset classes hailing from Montreal, had purchased 99 acres of land directly north of the airport.

Aerotek is also making a big move to the area. A new 75,000 square-foot hangar was completed in late 2019 for KF Aerospace to accept expanded work. This is part of a $40 million investment that will also include a 70,000 square-foot training facility for Mohawk College’s aviation programs. KF Aerospace has also said it’s expected to create over 200 jobs by 2022.

All of this activity is especially impressive when considering these acquisitions and plans took place before the outset of COVID-19 and the acceleration of e-commerce. The subsequent increased demand of last-mile logistical space appears to have been a bet well made for many of these players.

With so much concentrated investment in such a short time frame, expect to see rapid growth in this area over the coming years.

All photos courtesy of Hamilton International Airport

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