Photo courtesy of Froehling and Robertson Inc.

The award-winning bathrooms may be claiming all the headlines. But hundreds of millions of dollars worth of developments at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport are poised to boost the airport’s economic impact and potentially create new demand for commercial real estate.

Current renovation and expansion projects at BWI include:

  • The $332.5 million A/B Connector and Baggage Handling System Improvement: The largest terminal enhancement in BWI’s history, the project is expected to dramatically increase baggage handling capacity and speed, and enhance traveler experience.
  • The $135 million Southwest Airlines Technical Operations Hangar: The first Southwest facility of its kind on the East Coast, the 129,000-square-foot building will accommodate three Boeing 737 aircraft, another eight on the apron, and increase Southwest operations and staffing in Maryland.

In addition, crews are currently working on a $2 million lighting upgrade on the lower/arrivals area of the terminal, systemic upgrades to BWI’s central utility plant, and ongoing improvements to runways and taxiways.

Gina Stewart, Executive Director of the BWI Business Partnership, expects those large investments to boost both cargo and passenger traffic at BWI, and the airport’s overall economic impact, which currently stands at $9.3 billion annually.

Image courtesy of the Maryland Aviation Administration.

“There will be opportunities to fill more distribution space, more warehouse space,” Stewart said.

The growth could also trigger further developments.

“The airport is going through their regular revision of the airport layout,” Stewart said. “The revised layout hasn’t been finalized yet but they are looking at developing a new C/D connector and a taller air traffic control tower. With those developments could come a new airport hotel and conference center right at the airport.”

Planners are also looking at the prospect of supporting expanded aviation and cargo services through a new light industrial development on a 400-acre site southwest of the BWI grounds, she said. “It is all very conceptual at this point but they are looking at a mix of commercial, flex, warehouse and distribution space for aviation support and related uses.”

Photo courtesy of Hatzel & Buehler Inc.

Meanwhile, ongoing passenger and cargo growth at BWI has already triggered a few new industrial developments and set the stage for the redevelopment of some properties.

“The amount of cargo that is shipped in and out of the airport has seen a significant increase. Amazon Air has opened a distribution facility inside the airport. This facility is one of the top five busiest locations for Amazon and is another major job creator,” said Wesley MacQuilliam, Chief Operating Officer of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation.

Growth across multiple cargo handlers has heightened demand for industrial space near BWI and “resulted in several new industrial buildings that are currently in planning or under construction,” MacQuilliam said.

In the face of post-pandemic softness in the office market, MacQuilliam also expects to see some redevelopment of underutilized office buildings near BWI.

Photo courtesy of Hatzel & Buehler Inc.

“A few years ago, COPT demolished one of their office buildings in Airport Square and built a restaurant park. This project was very successful and added amenities for surrounding offices,” he said. “Post-Covid, highly amenitized office spaces are more important than ever as employers are trying to lure people back to the office. Following this trend in Airport Square, an office building across the street from COPT’s redevelopment is planning a similar project that will replace the office building with retail.”