An aerial rendering of Walter Hughes’ Mega Skyport design. | Courtesy Humphreys & Partners Architects

The Next Step for Uber in Orange County?

Carrie Rossenfeld Residential & Mixed Use

Humphreys & Partners Architects (HPA) was recently invited to present its vision of the future of air travel at the second annual Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles. As a design finalist for Uber’s Skyport, HPA shared its ideas, plans, and renderings alongside other finalists on providing an aesthetically pleasing and functional solution for on-demand, point-to-point transportation through mass adaption, community integration, and reduced noise and air pollution.

The firm’s VP of design Walter Hughes conceptualized two distinctive ports for aircrafts called Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL), which he said could expand the definition of mixed-use development. The beehive-inspired Mega Skyport offers an efficient, cylindrical structure, while the smaller Skyport integrates seamlessly on top of an existing parking garage. Both can easily be replicated and scaled up for higher throughput and mass adoption. Crafted from bio-concrete, Hughes proposed utilizing this self-healing mixture of concrete and limestone-producing bacteria that fills and repair cracks.

According to Hughes’ design, the Mega Skyport could serve 900 passengers per hour per level, totaling 5,400 passengers per hour, with 13 boarding/charging/unboarding pads per level. It would have a 2.9-acre footprint, 240 parking spaces for cars and six levels. Each VTOL would spent five minutes at the platform, with a landing every 20 seconds, totaling 180 landings and takeoffs per hour.

While the only current designs announced for this project are Los Angeles and the DFW Metroplex, we spoke with Hughes about how his air-travel design might work in other parts of Southern California, particularly in Orange County, and what the real estate sector needs to know about it. For additional information about the project, including a video, click here.

A rendering of Walter Hughes’ Skyport design. | Courtesy Humphreys & Partners

SoCal Real Estate: How would the uberAir Skyport and Mega Skyport fit into Orange County’s real estate landscape?
The Skyport would seamlessly blend into to Orange County’s real estate landscape, in part because of the Skyport’s relatively small size and ability to be duplicated with only minor modifications around any urban setting, which creates multiple options for departure and landing locations. One of the unique aspects of this design is that it can easily be adapted to work with existing projects, while at the same time providing an opportunity to be the centerpiece for future development and/or planning, expanding the definition of “mixed-use” development.

What types of locations would work best in this submarket for this project?
Again, one of Skyport’s most appealing features is its adaptability. Skyport can operate on existing surfaces, such as rooftops or on parking garages, as well as in a stand-alone capacity. Part of the thinking behind Skyport is that it is an attractive solution, as parking requirements will inevitably continue to decrease with higher-density development and continued construction.

What would be unusual about the development of this project that the real estate sector needs to know?
One of the unusual/advantageous aspects of this project is that it provides solutions to multiple challenges. As transportation continues to evolve, developers and owners continue to face the ever-pressing question of what to do with existing parking garages and surface lots. While the automobile will continue to play a role in the foreseeable future, that role will continue to diminish as generational thinking changes. Personal cars are becoming a less-frequent mode of transportation, and with development and construction on the rise, it poses questions from an infrastructure standpoint. Uber will continue to be a leader in providing metropolitan areas the answer to one of the most pressing questions that they face, which is how do you move people in a safe, quick, sustainable and efficient manner? The solution is uberAir and a Skyport.

What else should our readers know about this project and the Orange County market?
uberAir will provide the commercial and residential real estate community a unique opportunity to capture an audience that they might have not considered due to geographical disbursement. Uber’s stated goal of operating demonstrator flights starting in 2020 and beginning commercial operations in 2023 is giving people who work in densely populated urban areas a chance to consider living in the suburbs and vice versa. As a result of giving people a different way to travel and commute, uberAir creates opportunities for all parties involved in selling, purchasing, and developing real estate, and continues to help drive value.