As Long Beach continues its reemergence as an aerospace powerhouse, the city is looking to capitalize on its momentum with a new development opportunity at the Long Beach Airport.

For decades, 17 acres of land on the west side of the airport  — an 11-acre parking lot owned by the city and 6 acres on the airfield — has sat undeveloped and underutilized. In the past, the lot has been leased by Boeing and Mercedes-Benz for parking, according to airport staff.

On Thursday, the city issued a request for proposals to develop the area, which specified the use must be aeronautical.

“All the stars are aligned — no pun intended — and great things are gonna happen,” Economic Development Director Bo Martinez said in an interview Friday, adding that aerospace is the fastest growing business sector in the city.

As in industry, aerospace drives high-paying jobs and huge investments, Martinez said, adding that Long Beach has become an “epicenter for space and beyond.”

Long Beach has more than a century’s worth of aerospace history, the first major milestone being the establishment of the Long Beach Airport 100 years ago as the first municipally owned airfield in Southern California. The city solidified its place in aviation history with the Douglas Aircraft Company playing a critical role in plane production during World War II.

The company eventually became known as McDonnell Douglas, which later merged with Boeing in 1997.

Over the years, plane manufacturing and aviation jobs left Long Beach until the final Boeing C-17 Globemaster III came off the line in November 2015. That same year, however, saw the beginning of the city’s rebound into the aerospace sector when Virgin Galactic — which quickly morphed into the now-defunct small satellite launch provider Virgin Orbit — moved into Douglas Park.

Since then, a host of space and aviation companies have moved to Long Beach, including Rocket Lab, SpinLaunch and Relativity Space. In the last year, the sector has exploded in the city, with JetZero, Vast, Aevum, ExLabs, AIBOT and Auriga, among others, that now call Long Beach home.

Aerospace companies of all kinds are able to submit proposals for the latest opportunity in Long Beach, which will then be evaluated based on a list of criteria, including “economic and workforce development benefits,” airport spokesperson Kate Kuykendall said in an email Thursday.

“The objective … is to select a qualified developer, through a lease agreement, that aligns with the airport’s vision of enhancing the aeronautical services throughout the region,” Kuykendall said, adding that the proposal could incorporate non-aeronautical use as part of the project subject to airport staff review and approval.

The property, known as the Wardlow Parcel, is immediately adjacent to 90 acres of land previously owned by the Boeing for the manufacturing of the C-17 and other aircraft.

Commercial development firm The Goodman Group purchased the property from Boeing in 2019. In 2021, the group announced the largest hangar had been leased by Relativity Space, a new small satellite launch provider developing the world’s first fully 3D-printed rocket.

The smaller hangar space directly west of the Wardlow Parcel remains vacant.

According to the RFP, staff expects a proposal to go before the City Council in the third quarter, adding to an aviation complex that generates $8.6 billion in economic impact and supports 46,000 jobs.

“Such large acreage being available at our 100-year-old, award-winning Long Beach Airport is a rare opportunity for new development and investment,” Mayor Rex Richardson said in a statement. “With LGB’s central location and its role as a hub for economic activity and aerospace innovation, we expect this opportunity will attract strong interest from the aeronautical community.”

The city is accepting proposals through its vendor portal, Long Beach Buys, until 11 a.m. on April 2. For more information on the request for proposals, click here.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.