Window Opens for Public Comments on Massive Hangar Proposal

January 26, 2023

The clock is ticking on the comment period in response to the proposed 495,000-square-foot complex of hangars at Hanscom Field, off Hartwell Road.

A 100-page environmental notification form was made available to the public Wednesday by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The comment deadline is Feb. 14.

Access to the details is available from engineering firm VHB ([email protected]), which prepared the report for the developers, North Airfield Ventures and Runway Realty Ventures. The link for comments is  [Editor’s note 1/27/2023: , EEA# 16654, or email MEPA Analyst, Alexander Strysky, [email protected].]

In an introductory letter, Michael Argiros, one of the principals, described the 49-acre project as “a master development of corporate hangars which will support current aviation activity  and accommodate future demand.”

Plans call for renovation of the so-called Navy hangar and construction of 27 new hangars on contiguous Massachusetts Port Authority land with door widths of 105 feet and heights of 28 feet. The report says, “Aviation support, shop, and passenger amenity areas customized for each tenant’s flight department will also be included in  the design of each individual hangar.” 

The estimated capital costs, according to the report, are $112 million. The buildings will have a 38-year lifespan.

There were a number of details in the notification that have not been discussed at public meetings, such as:

  • “The project team is exploring the feasibility of using the airfield to accommodate construction vehicle traffic.” A proposed land swap between Massport and the owner of the Navy hangar “enables completion of an internal circulation road, which can potentially be used to deliver material to the project site.”
  • “The project continues to evaluate the possibility of incorporating a living history museum into the development that would include public access for this educational opportunity.”
  • The project schedule anticipates all facilities to be completed and occupied by 2026. The design and permitting process is estimated to take 18 months, which means construction would begin before the end of 2024. 
  • At one time, there was a plan to construct a 73,000-square-foot biomedical facility next to the former Navy hangar. That was not pursued because, the report says, “a non-aviation use of the Navy parcel does not meet the demand for additional GA and corporate hangar space in the region. The use is also inconsistent with Massport’s mission for Hanscom Field.”
  • There were no bidders in response to Massport’s original request for proposals for 165,000 square feet of hangar space in 2017 because “the high cost of infrastructure (utilities) and corresponding low density of development does not produce an adequate return on investment.” 
  • “Should excess soil be generated during construction that requires off-site disposal, analytical testing of the soil will be required so it can be properly disposed of. Existing pavement if applicable will be processed on-site for reuse as structural fill or shipped to an asphalt recycling facility.”

The developer emphasized that the additional hangar space will actually result in reduced aircraft operations at Hanscom because currently jets drop off passengers and then have to relocate for overnight storage. The notification form did not include data to support this point.

The number of vehicle trips per day on Bedford streets in support of the project was estimated at fewer than 200.

The Navy hangar, which is not on Massport property but within the confines of the airport, was sold to a private developer at auction in 2018. The building has been designated historic by the state, and the developer’s report said there are plans for it to be “modernized and restored while maintaining the character of this historic structure.”

Also noted was that the developer wants to “provide meeting spaces for public use and offer supervised tours, allowing the community to feel connected to the facility and witness the benefit it will provide to the region.”

According to the filing, “the project was presented at the June 21 Hanscom Field Advisory Commission meeting and dates have been provided at each subsequent monthly HFAC meeting.” The Massport project report for June 21, 2021 contains one sentence about the project: “Massport is exploring the release of a new RFP for the North Airfield area encompassing up to 30 acres.”

HFAC Chair Christopher Eliot Thursday commented by email, “I don’t think the developer has ever done a presentation to us.”

At this month’s HFAC meeting, Amber Goodspeed, manager of airport operations, stressed the importance of commenting on the report. “This is your opportunity to influence the project and engage with MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act) and the developers.”

Construction projects on Massport land are exempt from local zoning and permitting requirements. The notification form said the buildings will be connected to town water and sewer, and permits will be required for “liquid petroleum storage in an aquifer protection overlay district.”

“The project will facilitate progress toward a carbon neutral aviation industry by incorporating infrastructure to support electric vehicles and equipment, electric aircraft, and sustainable aviation fuels,” according to the form.

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Patty Dahlgren
January 29, 2023 11:12 am

I wonder if anyone is paying attention?

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