Aldermen Get Behind Mayor's O'Hare Concessions Choice

Chicago's City Council will vote next week on one of several multi-million dollar contract bids to operate and manage concessions at O'Hare Airport's international terminal.

Baltimore-based Westfield Concession Management LLC appears to be the front-runner in the bidding, as the City Council Aviation Committee on Thursday endorsing Mayor Rahm Emanuel's recommendation of the company in a 14 to 1 vote.

The city seeks an overhaul of Terminal 5 that would include moving concessions to the other side of the security gates, buying travelers more time to make purchases before boarding their planes. The city hopes these measures will at least double the revenue it currently receives for concession purchases.

Westfield's 25-year proposal guarantees the city at least $5.1 million in annual rent as well as $26.2 million in renovations and new construction to the concession area, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

The lone dissenter in the Aviation Committee's vote, Ald. John Arena (45th), believes the aldermen didn't have time to accurately assess the bid because information on the plans was just released to them by the Emanuel Administration earlier this week.

If approved, Westfield will replace Chicago Aviation Partners (CAP) in Terminal 5, a company that has operated the concessions there for 18 years. CAP offered the city a minimum of $11.5 million in annual rent, but city council members are skeptical because they say the former Mayor Richard M. Daley-endorsed company has fallen short on sales profit predictions in the past.

CAP's shareholders included Jeremiah Joyce, one of Daley's closest political advisers, and former Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine. Westfield has it's own ties to city hall, however. The Westfield lobbying team includes Tim Dart, brother of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and Demetrius Carney, president of the Chicago Police Board.

Regardless of rent figures, Westfield has agreed to pay the city 16 percent of gross sales or three dollars per departing passenger, whichever is greater.

With approval next week, Westfield could take over concessions operations in Terminal 5 as early as this Fall.

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