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Aerotroplis: 13 years later, still on the tarmac

May 13, 2015

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 747-400 sits on the tarmac at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
Credit user redlegsfan21 / flickr

On paper, it's a pretty good idea: a business district stretching ten miles between Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports.

It would attract investment money, backers said. It would create 64,000 new jobs for Southeast Michigan.

All of those ideas were buzzing around when the shiny new McNamara Terminal opened.

That was 13 years ago. And no district has materialized.

Detroit Free Press Columnist Tom Walsh has been digging into what happened.

Detroit already had a strong grip on international trade. "One of the great things about the Detroit hub for Delta, and Northwest before that, is it’s the gateway to Asia," Walsh says.

Walsh says that the vision for the so-called “aerotropolis” had great potential. After all, a modern, convenient airport is invaluable when it comes to channeling business, and there was a ton of undeveloped land that could have blossomed to house a lot of profitable logistics and cargo businesses.

Walsh says while the plan, later re-branded “VantagePort,” failed to gain traction, there may yet be hope for the development.

“There are people who still believe in the concept,” he says, “it just has never quite gotten off the ground, it’s still kind of on the tarmac.”