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$48M deal to build animal ARK at JFK Airport

Rendering of the new facility.
Rendering of the new facility.

ARK Development, LLC, an affiliate of leading real estate company Racebrook Capital, announced today it has signed a 30-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to develop, finance, construct, operate and manage The ARK at JFK, a $48-million, 178,000 s/f  state-of-the-art animal handling and intelligent air cargo facility.

The ARK will be the world’s only privately owned animal handling cargo terminal and USDA-approved, full-service 24-hour airport quarantine facility for the import and export of horses, pets, birds, and livestock.

The ARK at JFK will be constructed at the current site of Cargo Building 78 at JFK, with 14.4 acres of surrounding ground area, which includes direct airside access to the taxiway and large aircraft ramp parking. It will be divided into three complementary sections: the air cargo wing, a central administrative and business center with 24-hour veterinary hospital, and the main animal handling facility with pet boarding, animal import and export center, and livestock export handling system.

“We developed The Ark concept to address the unmet needs for the import and export of companion, sporting and agricultural animals,” said The ARK at JFK Founder and Racebrook Chairman John J. Cuticelli, Jr. “The animal terminal will set new international airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services.”

The $48 million project will create more than 180 jobs and generate revenues for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimated at $108 million over the span of the project’s 30-year lease. The completed facility will significantly increase cargo throughput at the airport.


“Redeveloping cargo infrastructure and growing the cargo pie at New York and New Jersey’s airports is vital to supporting thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for the region,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “ARK’s investment of $48 million into JFK will transform an airport structure that has been vacant for nearly 10 years into a world-class specialty cargo facility, and the agreement guarantees the Port Authority more than $100 million in revenue without any additional capital investment.”

Financing will be facilitated by Build NYC, the City’s conduit bond issuer, which will issue bonds underwritten by Goldman Sachs, as well as equity partner Westport Capital Partners LLC, and construction lender The Union Labor Life Insurance Co., Real Estate Investment Group. “Build NYC bonds are a crucial tool in the City’s overall efforts to drive the economy, encouraging business growth and job creation in all five boroughs,” said Jeffrey Lee, Executive Director of Build NYC. “The Air Cargo industry at JFK is an important component of New York City’s greater economy, directly responsible for over 17,000 jobs, and The ARK at JFK will help bolster JFK’s competitive advantage as an international air cargo gateway, a major New York City Economic Development Corporation priority.”

The ARK at JFK has been designed by leading architects, designers and engineers, including master architect Gensler, equine-specialty architect Gralla Equine Architects (GH2), construction manager Holt and Grandin Livestock Handling Systems (GLHS), with guidance from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cattle handling area.

“Gensler is accustomed to designing airports with an eye to fostering wellbeing for people, yet The ARK at JFK posed a unique design challenge for us: to create a place that could ease and simplify the sometimes complex process of transporting animals by plane,” said Gensler Architect and Senior Associate Cliff Bollmann.

“For the animals who pass through The Ark, as well as the people who own them, air travel can be stressful and confusing.” He added that, “aligning the needs of quarantine with kenneling and elevating the experience for animals and their owners, our design team sought to create a comfortable, healthy environment for them all.”

Holt Construction has been intimately involved in the construction planning of The ARK at JFK for the past several years. Holt’s President Christopher Asaro is “thrilled to be part of this unparalleled project. The importance of this project cannot be overstated, as it is the first of its kind. The ARK will stimulate the local economy while providing a wider range of services to a variety of animals, its benefit to the airlines as well as the local and global communities makes this a model project in our industry.”

“The ARK at JFK represents an enormous leap forward in the care and comfort of horses and cattle that travel through the airport,” said Ms. Lachlan Oldaker, RA, Specialty Practice Leader/Senior Equine Architect, GH2 Gralla Equine Architects. “The design allows planes to taxi directly to the building, so horses can be transported in a seamless fashion that reduces stress.”

 Oldaker added that there is a large animal departure lounge, where horses for export have access to comfortable stalls, food and water. There is also an arrival area where the horses’ vitals are taken before they are placed in individually climate controlled units equipped with bedding and natural light. The cattle handling facility is similarly designed for optimal ease.

“This really is a worry-free, one-stop shop for passengers and animals, thanks to the various on-site offerings, including Paradise 4 Paws, an aviary and a veterinarian,” she said.

The ARK at JFK will provide both airside and landside services to board, kennel, quarantine, import, export and transport large and small animals. Additional services will include transportation in dedicated climate controlled vehicles from aircraft, terminals, cargo facilities and other airport locations. A livestock export handling system designed by Professor Temple Grandin, the leading authority on livestock movement, will allow for the safe and efficient handling of cattle, goats, pigs and sheep from truck to aircraft.

Racebrook is subleasing approximately half of the facility to Consolidated Aviation Services (CAS), North America’s leading air cargo ground handler, which will serve as the anchor tenant. CAS will handle non-animal airfreight for the terminal including the receipt, storage and distribution of air cargo.

“We are excited to partner with Racebrook on such a monumental and visionary project that will utterly transform the way other airports approach their animal handling responsibilities,” said Mike Duffy, CEO of Consolidated Aviation Services, which will serve as the exclusive ground handler for the ARK and Sky team, including Air France, the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France; Alitalia, the national airline of Italy; and KLM, the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands.

In addition, Paradise 4 Paws will bring award-winning service in the form of a 20,000 s/f 24-hour pet resort with overnight accommodations for cats and dogs, dog daycare, grooming, training, and airport parking.

“Paradise 4 Paws has been expanding significantly over the past year, with our most recent opening at Denver International Airport, and we are thrilled to now be able to offer our services to travelers out of JFK Airport,” said Saq Nadeem, Top Dog and CEO at Paradise 4 Paws.

A key component of The ARK at JFK will be state-of-the-art veterinary services available 24/7, 365 days per year, including general medicine, emergency, critical care, internal medicine, surgery and advanced diagnostics provided by LIFECARE, a new veterinary hospital system committed to providing the most advanced medical care options and treatments to pets across the country.

The LIFECARE Veterinary Health System also includes several renowned veterinary specialty practices in the northeast, including Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey, VRC in southeastern Pennsylvania and East End Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Long Island, NY.

“LIFECARE’s partnership with The ARK at JFK is a perfect fit for our growing organization as we are committed to providing state-of-the-art and comprehensive veterinary care for pets whenever and wherever life takes our clients,” said John Payne, CEO and Founder of LIFECARE.

“We are excited to embark upon such a game-changing development, which will revolutionize the care of animals in an aviation environment,” said Dr. Aaron S. Perl, Founder and Managing Director of The ARK at JFK and General Counsel of The Racebrook Portfolio Companies. “We are proud to have brought together one of the most prestigious project development teams in the field to bring this vision to life.”

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