Developer plans west side projects: Gulfstream Enterprises building office park for 'aviation-related businesses'

Aug. 30--The people developing shopping centers on Kentucky 54 are also working on plans for Owensboro's west side.

Several of the partners in Gulfstream Enterprises, which is developing Woodlands Plaza, Highland Pointe and Gateway Commons, are among the owners of MidAmerica Jet.

And the company hopes to develop an office park on 65 acres east and south of the MidAmerica Jet complex, said Randy Hutchinson, a partner in both companies.

"We want it to be for aviation-related businesses," he said Wednesday. "When that runway extension is complete, this airport will be able to handle the largest cargo planes."

The north-south runway is being extended to 8,000 feet.

The 65 acres are included in MidAmerica Jet's lease with Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport, a lease that went to court last year.

MidAmerica Jet signed a 100-year lease with the airport board in 1981. But the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that public entities could not approve leases for more than 20 years.

And the airport board contended last year that the lease was no longer valid. So, the issue went to court.

Hutchinson said MidAmerica Jet has agreed to accept a 20-year lease. The airport will ask for bids on a new lease, he said.

And if MidAmerica Jet doesn't get the lease, the company that does will have to buy all of the company's improvements to the airport. That includes all but three of the hangars at the airport, Hutchinson said.

The 20-year lease will be long enough for the company to move forward with plans to develop an office park next door, he said.

Gulfstream is also working to develop a 7.5-acre site at 4320 W. Parrish Ave. -- near The Boatman.

The local group bought MidAmerica Jet last October from the heirs of the late Jim Hines, who created the charter air service in 1981.

On Wednesday night, the company had an open house to show off its improvements.

"It was on the verge of closing when we bought it," Hutchinson said. "We preserved the 24 jobs that were here then. And hopefully, we can add significantly more in the future."

MidAmerica Jet doesn't own planes. It manages them. The company leases four jets -- a six-passenger, an eight-passenger and two nine-passengers.

Hutchinson said the company plans to add propeller-driven planes and "very light jets," which are smaller than business jets.

The idea is to appeal to the economy market of business travelers as well as to families.

Chad Goetz, the operations manager, refers to them as "air taxis."

MidAmerica is also working to increase local ownership of aircraft. The company will help find partners for those interested in buying part-ownership of a plane, Hutchinson said.

And he said the company hopes to resume flight instruction soon.

Andy Pippin, director of operations, said flight training at the airport ended Dec. 31, 2005.

MidAmerica's operations center has been extensively remodeled with new furniture, customer-service counters, a pilots' lounge and large local historic photographs on the walls. The old restaurant on the second floor has been turned into offices and conference rooms.

"We want to make a great impression on people who fly into Owensboro," Hutchinson said. "This is a gateway to the community. It's some people's first impression of Owensboro."

MidAmerica also has 3,000 square feet of office space available for lease on the second floor of its maintenance hangar.

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