Phase 1 of Midway Renovation Done, as Aviation Department Looks to Move Beyond Controversies

The first phase of Midway International Airport's new food hall was unveiled Tuesday, with a celebration of new flavors now located in the multi-million dollar development. 

The new food hall is part of a $75 million project that began in 2017, aimed at redeveloping the airport's concessions area.

The area in question is in Concourse A, which used to be empty, but has been transformed to hold more than 70 new food and retail stands.

There was some criticism when construction began, with some travelers upset that restaurants like McDonald's and Potbelly had to close.

But city officials said the new food hall allows them to bring in a variety of new restaurants — including some iconic Chicago favorites, like Nuts on Clark and Billy Goat Tavern, plus Arami, Reilly's Daughter and more.

Tuesday's unveiling marked the first public event for both the Chicago Department of Aviation's new commissioner Jamie Rhee and new City Council Aviation Committee chair Ald. Matt O'Shea since their appointments. 

Joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Rhee and O'Shea were among the officials highlighting the project's job creation.

The development has provided more than 1,000 concession jobs for local residents, officials said, with more work to be done. They highlighted that workers at Midway are making above minimum wage at $13.85 an hour. 

The project did not come without controversy though, as former deputy Aviation Commissioner Juan Manzano - one of the leads on the renovation - was fired earlier this summer over allegations of bullying. 

With new leadership in place, the renovation - which officials said they hoped would be completed by 2020 - was more about the direction Midway and the Aviation Department hope to head, moving away from the past. 

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