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St. Pete-Clearwater airport seeks state grant to develop 124-acre site

Veronica Brezina

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The Airco site as seen on a map. Pinellas County documents.

The St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is asking for $10 million from the state to help turn a 124-acre stretch of land into a developable property that could create thousands of jobs. 

The land, referred to as the Airco site, was a golf course that closed in 2011. It is the largest piece of undeveloped land in Pinellas County and has been called the largest economic opportunity in the county.  

The Pinellas County commissioners approved the airport’s application to request $10 million through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, which is an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state. 

The entire $25-$30 million infrastructure project is on the southeast of the airport’s property, north of Ulmerton Road. The site needs critical infrastructure to attract developers and tenants for both aeronautical and non-aeronautical uses.  

The airport has already wrapped up an environmental assessment on the site. 

Pinellas County and PIE previously applied for funding under this same grant program in Fiscal Year 2020, but did not receive funding. 

“The funding we applied for before was to begin design on the taxiways that serve the Airco site and provide connectivity to the airfield,” read county documents. “Now that the design of the taxiways is being planned with Federal Aviation Administration funding, the next immediate need is the infrastructure that will attract developers to the Airco site.”

If the airport received the $10 million from the state, Pinellas County would match it by using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 

The infrastructure improvements at the site would include telecommunications, lift stations, power, sanitary sewer and stormwater ponds on the Airco property.

Depending on when funding is received, the design and site planning would begin in the fall after a competitive request for proposals process for a design firm is completed. 

Typically, the tenants utilizing airport properties range from airlines to maintenance repair operators, flight schools and e-commerce operations that need proximity to airports. 

The neighboring Lakeland Linder International Airport is one of the most significant examples of how an airport can create a site-ready pad of land for a larger user. The Lakeland Linder International Airport undertook studies including environmental assessments before securing e-commerce giant Amazon. 

Amazon’s air cargo facility at the Lakeland airport represents Amazon Air’s largest facility in the Southeast region, and has resulted in the creation of hundreds of jobs. 

An analysis of the Airco site showed it could accommodate 354,000 square feet of aviation-related buildings. Under certain scenarios, the aviation uses at the site could directly support between 787 and 885 jobs at full development, according to county documents. 

Beyond the aviation-related development, the remainder of the Airco site could be focused on new office and industrial space. It is estimated that 863,900 square feet of additional space could be constructed. The additional buildings would include 199,000 square feet for office uses, 264,900 square feet for light industrial or flex space, and 400,000 square feet for manufacturing.

The office space could support roughly 796 employees. With the light industrial, flex and manufacturing space it could bring another 1,330 jobs.

Together, these components could support, at minimum, over 2,000 direct jobs.

The Airco site may also be used for 19,000 square feet of retail and 100-key hotel space, according to the analysis. 

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