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JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT : Airport-Area Land: Up, Up and Away


So what's it worth, being near an airport?

A lot, says Robert Young, president of McDonnell Douglas Realty, the Irvine-based commercial and industrial development arm of McDonnell Douglas Corp.

"When we started our projects in Orange County roughly 15 years ago, we had a small, almost rural, airport and we were doing two-story garden office buildings across the street from it," he recalls.

"Now we're putting in a pair of 24-story towers connected to the airport by a monorail."

Office rents next to the airport have soared to $2.50 a square foot from 50 cents a square foot in 1975, Young said.

And in 1966, when McDonnell Douglas Realty first started looking at airport area land, "values in the area were $10,000 to $15,000 an acre," Young said.

In 1987, the company sold a 1.9-acre site less than 100 yards from the airport for $1.99 million, or nearly 100 times the 1966 cost.

"I just saw it up for sale again the other day," Young said, "so I called the agent and asked the price."

The owners are asking $4.1 million.

"And what has happened in the past is just a fraction of what we will see in the future. Values will be triple or quadruple what we've seen," Young maintains.

"Already, we are seeing low-rise offices being torn down to make way for high-rises. And the development impact fans out for about 20 miles."

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