O’Hare has created a real “farm to table”
experience by installing in 2011 the first-ever
aeroponic garden in an airport environment.
Dozens of varieties of produce, including
lettuce, peppers, beans and herbs, are grown
in the garden and are harvested for use by
restaurants at the airport.
It was clear that the international terminal’s
concessions program required both a substantial
upgrade of offerings, along with a complete redesign of the space layout. Due to the CAPEX associated with the latter, the CDA developed a strategic
approach to procure an entity that could bring a
modern approach while supplying a financial plan
that minimized the impact on CDA finances.
Therefore, the RFP sought a partner to design,
redevelop and operate the concessions program
for a 20-year term. The duration of the term was
chosen to allow for the substantial CAPEX to be
injected, while creating an opportunity for the private entity to substantially increase sales in a way
that ultimately would benefit the airport.
In June 2009, three responses to the RFP were
received, and the CDA formed a 20-person evaluation committee to review the proposals. The
committee consisted of seven voting members
drawn from the CDA and sister agency representatives, along with 13 experts from outside our
organization. The 13 industry experts represented a broad range of perspectives, including the
federal government, surrounding municipalities,
education institutions and industry. All members of the evaluation committee were required
to sign a confidentiality agreement and were
expected to devote substantial time to a thorough review process.
The evaluation committee conducted several
webinars to discuss the proposals and the related
evaluation categories, and hosted presentations
from each of the three bidding teams in early 2010.
The committee recommended a selection in April
2010, and that recommendation was accepted and
announced by the CDA in June 2010. Through
December 2010, the CDA conducted negotiations
with the selected team, led by the Westfield Group.
The agreement reached with the Westfield Group
called for an investment of $26.2 million into
the redevelopment of the international terminal.
This redevelopment will reconfigure the security
processing facilities to allow for the creation of a
substantial expansion of the airside concessions
program. A new world-class roster of retailers and
food and beverage offerings is planned, and it is
expected that, once complete, the international
terminal will be one of the best airport offerings in
the U.S. market.
Major construction activity is anticipated to
begin in spring 2012 and continue for 18 months.
The CDA views the international terminal process as a successful one, because it allows for
a significant enhancement to passenger amenities, leverages private financing for the necessary
CAPEX improvements, and increases anticipated
rents for the airport. When the development is
complete in the fall of 2013, annual concessions
sales in the international terminal are projected to
nearly double to about $49 million compared with
annual sales of $24.5 million in 2011.
The CDA utilized internal resources wherever
possible to develop and implement the process, as
well as external resources deemed essential in providing additional perspectives that added credibility to the selection process, and, most significantly,
provided the necessary financial wherewithal
without constraining the CDA’s financial resources.
The international terminal experience has produced
a set of lessons learned that continue to support other
efforts at both Chicago airports to improve other
concessions programs. The international terminal
experience illustrated the need for a thorough and
credible evaluation process. It also illustrated that
a properly structured procurement can result in
robust interest from marketplace leaders. Successful
implementation required sound internal decision-making, while relying on external experts to help
plan, review and implement improvements. The
sponsoring agency (in this case the CDA) must
have the capability to decide on strategic objectives
and make decisions along the way, while also
recognizing that external assistance is appropriate
and can be effective when properly managed.
As the CDA looks to add enhancements to other
terminals, some of these same processes can be
applied. Others may not fit in certain environments where there is not the luxury to procure
a comprehensive single-provider contract for an
At O’Hare, the CDA continues to work diligently
to bring in new concepts and add more variety and
more of Chicago’s unique flair and flavor. These
concepts in recent years have included two Tortas
Frontera Mexican restaurants by world-renowned
chef Rick Bayless and an authentic Japanese seafood and sushi bar, Wicker Park Sushi. These restaurants have been acclaimed by passengers and
food critics, not just for offering excellent airport
food, but for offering food that rivals the quality
and great taste of restaurants across the city. Earlier