By Jimmy Magahern
A high-tech executive office building with adjacent taxiways and a helipad, as as well as an authentic ’50s-style diner in the departure lounge…John Meyer’s latest property is redefining the Scottsdale Airpark hangar as the ultimate personal airport.
Let’s say you’re a jet-setting rock star in your field, whatever that may be, and you’re entertaining clients at your executive offices in Scottsdale before whisking them off to L.A. in your private luxury aircraft. Influential prospects are enjoying drinks in the second floor conference area and refreshment bar, taking in the sunset falling on the nearby McDowell Mountains, while you wait impatiently for the guest of honor, a celebrity entrepreneur, to arrive.
Finally her limo pulls up through the double entry gates, observed on at least a couple of the 17 CCTV cameras monitoring the site, and it’s time to round up the entourage.
“Let’s say you’re ready to go,” says commercial real estate broker John Meyer, picking up the scene and motioning toward the multi-button panel on the Lutron Automation Control System near the front entrance of the lavish 15,000-square-foot office building and jet hangar facility listed for sale by his firm, Airport Property Specialists. “You just hit ‘All Off’ and the huge motorized shades close over all the windows, the lights go dim, the air conditioning defaults to a preset level, and this building begins shutting itself down behind you as you walk to the hangar.”
Meyer ascends the staircase to the second floor, noting the builder’s meticulous attention to detail. “These stairs have skid points at the front of each step, so you don’t trip. Is that an expensive detail? You bet it is!”
He hurries across the sparkling granite flooring past the expansive Don Draper-worthy executive bar, just as a warming electronic fireplace automatically extinguishes itself. He points out that all of the furniture is imported from Italy.
“Everybody’s relaxing in the lounge, the pilot comes in, gives a thumbs up,” Meyer continues with the scene-setting. “You do a quick head count, and notice you’re still waiting on two more associates. No problem,” he says, opening the door to the hangar and pointing down another staircase to what looks like a mini 5 & Diner built into a corner of the hangar.
“The diner is a departure lounge for clients,” he enthusiastically mentions. “It’s an exact replica of a ’50s diner, fully functional. From the Coca-Cola napkin holders to the jukebox to the soda glasses, nothing was overlooked. That’s where you can have your coffee and relax, and make yourself a milkshake if you want.”
Finally everyone is together, the jet is rolled out over the Terrazzo hangar floor and the last strawberry shake is loudly polished off.
“You’re ready to go,” he says. “You board the plane, the pilot maneuvers down the taxiway to the runway. You’re airborne within ten minutes, if that. And nobody is gonna pat you down. You don’t have to take your shoes off. You’re off to L.A.!”
With its sleek modern design, full amenities and efficient layout, Meyer’s latest property is not so much a combination office building and hangar as it is a personal Sky Harbor—an iHarbor, if you will. Meyer says there are few properties left in the Airpark with such direct access to the Scottsdale Airport taxiways (only 15 private remaining taxiway parcels connect to the runway), and none quite as swanky as this one—save for maybe Hangar One, Bennett Dorrance’s 68,500 square-foot private aviation club located further down the taxiway, which is outfitted with space for up to 15 private jets, underground parking, a restaurant with seating for 40 and a garage for the Campbell Soup heir’s priceless collection of vintage cars.
Meyer’s hangar is considerably more compact, and cheaper: just a cool $6.4 million, compared to the $20 million price tag on the Dorrance project when it was completed in 2003.
“If you’re looking for the best building at the Airpark, I’d say it’s between this and Hangar One,” Meyer says. “It’s really one of a kind.”
The Hangar King
Meyer stands out on the third story “moon deck” of the state-of-the-art, high-efficiency facility he’s selling, surveying the cluster of comparatively boxy-looking hangar buildings lined up behind it like a pirate surveying the waters from the crow’s nest of the biggest ship on the seas. After more than 25 years in the corporate and general aviation industry, the principal and designated broker of Airport Property Specialists is intimately familiar with just about every hangar in the Airpark.
“I sold that building, I sold that one, sold that one,” he says, taking advantage of the unobstructed 360-degree view of North Scottsdale to point out his undisputed reign over the Airpark hangar market. “That building that’s beige at the top and greenish at the bottom? I sold that twice.”
Even competing broker Jim Keeley, founding partner of Colliers International’s Scottsdale office—whose annual perspective on the economic activity and trends in the Scottsdale Airpark market is considered required reading for investors—acknowledges Meyer as the “Hangar King.”
“If you want to know anything about hangars,” he says, “talk to John Meyer.”
Keeley’s latest report lists hangars as comprising only 2 percent of the Airpark’s 1,152 commercial properties, but according to an aircraft dealer who’s been selling planes for more than four decades, that’s precisely what makes them so desirable.
“There are office buildings all over Maricopa county,” he says. “With hangars, there’s a finite supply. There’s never going to be any more. And there’s a constant demand.”
Meyer began specializing in the field because of his love of flight. “Aviation is in my blood,” says Meyer, who worked as a fixed-base operator (FBO) at the Scottsdale Airport and general manager of Turbofan aircraft programs with Honeywell before taking over the hangar business at Airport Property Specialists. “I like selling hangars and being around airplane people.”
His expertise shows through. “I’ll get a phone call, ‘Hey John, I need a hangar for my airplane.’ I’ll ask him, ‘What kind of plane do you have?’ ‘I’ve got a Gulfstream G100.’ Right away, I know it’s 52 feet wide, 51 feet long, it’s got a tail height of 18 feet. I tell him, ‘I know just the place.’ Another guy calls. ‘I got a King Air and a Piper Cub and I need a place to store ‘em.’ I say, ‘I’ve got just what you’re looking for. It’s a 4,320-square-foot hangar with a ceiling height of 21 feet. It’s got the width, it’s got the depth. It’s got 700 square feet of office in case you want to hang out at the Airport.’”
Meyer acknowledges hangars aren’t always the most popular properties for investors.
“There are very few people that buy hangars from an investment standpoint,” he explains. “But that’s only because most of these guys buy them for themselves. And once they have one, they usually don’t want to let them go. Unless they buy a bigger plane!”
There are many amenities at Meyer’s ultimate personal airport that aren’t immediately visible. Just outside the building is a 660-foot deep private well that can produce potable water at 65 gallons per minute. Nearby is a 75 kilowatt natural gas-powered generator that can provide backup electrical power for the entire building. There’s a custom security system and monitored access at each entry point, a dual 2,000 gallon underground fueling system that provides gasoline for cars and jet fuel for the planes outside the hangar and an FAA-approved lighted helipad for quick helicopter landings and take-offs.
It’s a survivalist’s utopia, which begs the question: Who built this place, and for what purpose?
“He was an entrepreneur out of California.” Meyer says, adding that the owner prefers to remain anonymous. “He was going to have an airplane, but his plans changed.”
Certainly all the high-tech prepper gear adds to the property’s price tag, but Meyer believes there are buyers out there looking for the unusual amenities built into this unique facility.
“In May, we had a shutdown because somebody dug a hole at Scottsdale Quarter and accidentally shut down a large portion of the airport,”Meyer says. “That’s an inconvenience, and there are guys here that love this kind of property because it’s self-sustaining. They’ll say, ‘I want water when I want water, I want power when I need it. I don’t want to rely on anybody.’ If something was to happen, this would be the only building besides the airport tower and the fire station that would still have its lights on.”
A representative of a Hollywood celebrity has come here today to tour the facility. The celebrity, who apparently has a need for a luxurious meeting area that could survive an apocalypse and automatically shut down if the owner felt a need to bug-out in a Learjet in under ten minutes.
“I’m touring today for a celebrity client, who wants a very functional as well as impressive facility,” he says. ”So it has to be not only a luxury facility, but also an incredibly functional one—that’s very high on the list— with a very high level of privacy. And this is perfect for that type of candidate. You can have a private meeting here in a facility that presents itself as well as any office in Beverly Hills or Park Avenue in New York, and then you can get in your jet and fly back to L.A.”
The property has never been occupied, and finding a well-heeled buyer looking for the precise mix of luxury, functionality and fallout shelter security might seem a daunting task to the average commercial broker. But not to Meyer.
“We’ve had good activity already,” he says. “And it’s like any other listing: if you have six people looking, one of them will be a serious prospect. If you have ten people looking, you’ll have a deal. I’m predicting it right now: this building will be sold by the fall.”