dôme aeroport de paris Roissy

The international business district at the heart of Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. cco Pexels / Mermoz Lionel

Questioning the market-led land development strategies of airports

Airport authorities are gradually shaping urban spaces through their property development: hotels, business parks, conference centers, etc. This article challenges these development strategies pursued by increasingly financialized and privatized airports in the name of “airport city” policies. This article, co-authored by three members of UMR Géographie-cités, Juliette Maulat and Mathilde Pedro, examines the land and real estate strategies of these players, marked by processes of financialization and privatization.

The authors show that the changes underway are a vivid expression of a VIP model of urbanism, in which the airport authority, maximizing its revenues and land value, naturalizes its emphasis on high-end real-estate projects, trivializing their social reach.

The analysis draws on the case of the Paris city region, characterized by land scarcity and housing issues, and its airport authority, Aéroports de Paris (ADP), one of the largest landowners in the region. Using documents from ADP, a press corpus, and interviews, we highlight how the distinctive geography at play in air terminals changes scale by being projected onto real-estate “diversification” projects, as ADP opts for urbanization centered around the upper fractions of the flying public. This market-led development leads to a form of elite capture that seeks to dwarf or endogenize other existing and potential uses and users of airport land. This article further deconstructs this urban model by shedding light on the multiple tensions it generates and pleads for a more critical debate on airport land uses and planning.

ADP’s financially driven real-estate development strategy has led to the production of a veritable form of airport VIP urbanism, extending the geography of social distinction at play 13 in air terminals to the larger scale of its diversification projects. This continuity is visible in the prioritization of kinetic elites as major commercial targets for the projects. In its communications on office property projects, ADP alights on socially dominant discourses on airport cities and aerotropolises.
Developing an airport VIP urbanism, p. 13-14

Jean-Baptiste Frétigny, Marion Magnan, Juliette Maulat, Mathilde Pedro. “Airport city” or “VIP” urbanism? Questioning the market-led land development strategies of airports. Human Geography, 2024, ⟨10.1177/19427786241251723⟩. ⟨hal-04553788⟩