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Airport World




HOK recently collaborated with the New York Building Congress on a report outlining ambitious enhancements to transform Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) into an airport city.

Recognising the potential for airports to offer the speed, accessibility and mobility critical to today’s globalised economy, cities across the globe have begun actively pursuing large-scale, mixed-use developments directly adjacent to airports.

A key component of these airport-centred urban economic regions or “airport cities” is their direct connection to the central business district through regional rail.

Successful examples of airport cities around the globe include Singapore Changi, Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt and Munich airports in Germany. In almost all cases, airport cities benefit from the unique and powerful confluence of transportation modes and the shifting global mindset of businesses.

Metropolitan New York City has no such airport. None of the city’s three main airports have direct connections to regional rail, nor do they enjoy the benefits of a true airport city. A recent report by HOK and the New York Building Congress outlines a way to remedy that.  

The HOK-NYBC proposal imagines a new headhouse for Newark Liberty located just east of the airport. This new headhouse would attach directly to the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line, the nation’s most heavily used rail system.

Airline passengers would shuttle between the headhouse and the terminals via an automated people mover. More importantly, the relocated headhouse would offer passengers the only true one-seat ride from Manhattan to one of the city’s three airports.

Connecting the headhouse to the rail line would help spur the development of an airport city – home to corporations, technology companies and service industries that require convenient multimodal travel and hospitality amenities.

Newark Liberty has nearly 480 acres of contiguous vacant, industrial and low-rise commercial properties located within half a mile that could provide the backbone for a new EWR City.

EWR City would be a destination in and of itself with a conference centre, offices, commercial spaces and hotels. It also could provide much-needed economic opportunities for the people of Newark, where the unemployment rate is more than twice the national average.

Throughout EWR City, there would be opportunities to increase regional green space, including a sloping landscape on the headhouse roof and courtyards between buildings.

A physical connection to NEC also offers travellers the option of taking Amtrak Acela trains to Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC, which would free up New York City’s notoriously congested airspace. Airlines could benefit, too, by replacing these short trips with more lucrative long-distance flights.

EWR City and a combined air and rail hub at Newark Liberty speak to the future of transportation and economic development.

Best of all, the components are all in place to make this vision a reality. There’s the existing rail line. The international airport. The nearby business and industry. All that is needed now is the willingness to bring them together as one.



Published on

Mar 30, 2020 by New York Building Congress