On the morning of Dec. 6, business and civic leaders gathered on a vacant tract of land in Moon Township for a ceremony kicking off construction of Pittsburgh International Airport’s Innovation Campus.

As ground is broken on the ambitious and complex project, here’s a breakdown of the details and what the project means for the Pittsburgh region.

What is the Innovation Campus?

The Innovation Campus is a 195-acre tract of land that will be developed into a mix of office and industrial spaces, as well as a section for restaurants and entertainment known as the Town Center.

While Pittsburgh has many up-and-coming mixed-use developments, the Innovation Campus will be unique in that it will operate in a foreign-trade zone. The designation was awarded by the World Trade Centers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading free trade by managing similar zones all over the United States.

The hope is that the designation will lure foreign manufacturing companies to set up offices in the campus since tenants will have access to relief and exemptions from certain duties and tariffs that would normally affect their supply chains.

What’s the timeline? 

The Allegheny County Airport Authority estimates that construction of the first building will begin sometime in the next two to three years. Full development of the site could take more than a decade.

The Canonsburg-based construction firm Cast and Baker will be in charge of clearing and preparing the land for construction, a preliminary step that will cost $4.5 million.

No tenants have been announced yet, but project leaders have emphasized that they’ll design the offices and research and development centers on the campus to be as flexible as possible to accommodate many kinds of companies and, more importantly, allow them to react to changes and innovations in the manufacturing sector.

The design was inspired by the international Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands.

Renderting courtesy of the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Economic Impact

Once the campus is fully developed, it is expected to create hundreds of jobs, not to mention the construction jobs during the building period.

But beyond the campus, the Airport Authority is betting on the Innovation Campus to jumpstart interest in the airport itself.

As many leaders and local experts have noted, a lack of critical flight routes to and from Pittsburgh International Airport puts the city at a distinct disadvantage in the competition to attract investment.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh in early November, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said increasing the capacity of the airport ranks as one of the county’s most pressing economic needs.

“The economic development potential of the Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus is massive,” said PA Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin, who attended the ceremony. “It will help attract and retain talent and create a significant number of family-sustaining jobs for workers in the region.”