By Clayton Moore
Development marches on at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA) in Phoenix. A new project with the unique name of Wings Valet promises to bring 125,000 square feet of newly built hangar space to aviators in dire need of more space.
A partnership with some deep roots in the aviation business originated the project. Phil Hengsteler, Andy Russell and Max Anhoury were formerly behind ARM Aerospace, a company whose primary product is the Aero-Lift hangar storage solution. Impressed by the product’s usefulness and versatility, longtime investor Anhoury started investigating more opportunities in the aviation field and formed HDH Systems LLC, as the umbrella under which to build high-density hangar projects.
“Because we were talking to airports all over the country about our aircraft lifts, we started looking at development opportunities to build hangars that would accommodate Aero-Lifts,” Anhoury said. “Being firmly in the aviation industry, we felt we had a pretty good idea what was going to happen at specific airports. Because this one is close to home, it made sense to do a land lease at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.”
Formerly known as Williams Gateway Airport and once home to Williams Air Force Base, the airport has become a major reliever airport for the region and is poised to become a major transportation and business hub. A recently completed beltway, Loop 202, is bringing the city’s eastern suburbs more closely into the traffic flow of Phoenix. The city of Phoenix joined a $5 million partnership between Sky Harbor Airport and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway to attract airline traffic to the east side of the Phoenix area.
“It’s a huge airfield,” Anhoury said. “With 30,000 feet of runway, you could land anything that flies in the world here. The airport has been on the far southeast side of Phoenix until the city became one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas, and now that far side is a lot closer. The new freeway has made a huge difference for the southeast area. It’s also one of the fastest growing housing areas and has lot of amenities nearby. It’s growing like crazy.”
With a close eye on the area’s growth, Anhoury and his partners started envisioning a building project at the newly renamed airport in 2005. They started working closely with Casey Denny, deputy director of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, who Anhoury says deserves an “honorable mention” for his part in launching Wings Valet.
“When we started this project, we went to the airport authorities to express our interest in keeping the general aviation component here,” Anhoury said. “They were seeking out airplanes that were 30,000 pounds or bigger, but they soon realized they needed to do a good job for the general aviation market as well. When the dust all settled, they realized how GA helps the vitality of the airport. They have really embraced our development and have been great to work with all the way through this project.”
The partners secured a lease in 2006 for a parcel on the northeast side of the airport and proceeded with construction on their hangar complex, which will eventually total four buildings, in 2007.
The development’s unusual name has roots in a different concept that never came to fruition.
“We had originally planned to provide a managed aircraft storage facility, racking and stacking aircraft on our Aero-Lifts,” Anhoury said. “We had trouble getting acceptance from the aircraft owners for the concept, so we decided to provide just the hangars, and the name just stuck.”
The lease has been a valuable commodity to the airport, which has also seen a recent expansion of Boeing’s facilities on the airfield.
“Both leases are significant in the continued growth of the airport,” said Wendy Feldman-Kerr, the airport authority’s chairwoman, in 2005. “Not only do they bring us to 99 percent occupancy rate for available facilities, but they also add to the more than 1,100 jobs and $250 million annually in economic activity.”
The first phase of the Wings Valet project has already opened, with 60,000 square feet and another 40,000 square feet will open in June. Another 25,000 square feet will open at the end of 2008 or in early 2009. The project includes a combination of T-hangars and box hangars with a range from 44 by 38 feet all the way up to 80 by 60 feet. The diversity in size was purposeful and designed to target a broad range of aviation users.
“We have a pretty diverse mix,” Anhoury said. “Certainly the smaller T-hangars are oriented more towards the recreational aviation user, because he’s going to put a single-engine piston airplane in there. But in the box hangars, we’re seeing a lot of turbine aircraft including twins, 414s, a couple of Eclipses and a couple of King Airs.”
About 65 percent of the open hangars have already been leased, providing a welcome release valve for an aviation community that regularly experiences waits for up to nine years for hangar space in the area. Other amenities include a common area wash rack, Internet access and TSA-regulated security. Tenants will also have the flexibility to improve their hangars with offices, restrooms, mezzanines or other facilities.
Although Anhoury and his partners sold ARM Aerospace last year, they’ve naturally built the hangars at Wings Valet in a size capable of handling the innovative Aero-Lift aircraft lift.
“It’s so easy to accommodate the Aero-Lift, because all you’re looking for is a little bit of additional ceiling height,” Anhoury said. “You want to be able to lift one airplane up and still fit another airplane comfortably underneath it. So we added a couple of feet of additional wall height, which is a relatively inexpensive addition, but gives you plenty of room to stack two airplanes in a hangar.”
The amenities of the project are considerable, but the real attraction for new tenants may be the long-term, 40-year leases on the hangar complex.
“It’s been more and more difficult to get land leases that are north of 30 years, so we feel we did a pretty good job in securing a 40-year base term, plus a first right-of-offer for another10 years,” Anhoury said. “Even though it’s a leased property, it’s as close to fee-simple ownership as you’re going to get on an airport anywhere.
Costs for space at Wings Valet starts at $79 per square foot, plus prorated monthly fees for common expenses such as electricity, maintenance, building and liability insurance, and property taxes. Anhoury estimates that an entry-level hangar will set an aircraft owner back about $90,000. It’s a relatively economical exchange considering the length of the lease, and one that Anhoury feels is a good investment for any aviator.
“I look for markets where we feel we can have a competitive advantage over time,” he said. “We had one with the Aero-Lift and we definitely have one here at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. When you’re able to lock up maybe the last parcel of general aviation property at an airport like this one and build hangars on them, it’s a great opportunity. We’re here to provide a good product to our customers, who are going to see some appreciation in the long run.”
For more information on Wings Valet at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, visit [http://www.wingsvalet.com].