Confined to their existing infrastructure, two airports share their renovation and expansion experiences
By Jordanna Smida, Assistant Editor
Unlike the Pittsburghs of the world, when it comes to concession design, most airports must work with existing infrastructure. Both Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) are in an ongoing redevelopment of their concessions programs. Creating new space, finding unique operators, recruiting workers, and creating storage are just a few of the challenges both airports face.
In 1995 ORD began its Concessions Redevelopment Plan. "We initially had about 90,000-sq. ft. of concession space and as we have redeveloped those areas, we've also added an additional 10 to 15,000-sq. ft. of new concessional space," says Eric Griggs, deputy commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation concessions.
As one passes through security and proceeds toward terminal one, a WH Smith and Fannie May candy store tempt travelers among the tree-populated corridor that overlooks the tarmac. Kites made by the American Kite Flyers Association dance on the ceiling. As one winds through a glass corridor still overlooking the tarmac, you enter United's Concourse B. The area is occupied by Wolfgang Puck's restaurant and bar, which offers the coziness of a small Chicago cafe. As one passes the Michael Jordan Golf store, their eyes are drawn immediately to the overarching Brachiosaurus, which towers some four stories over United's ticketing desk and the Chicago Field Museum store.
Currently, ORD has 110,000-sq. ft. of concession space that has been renovated or created over the last four years. The latest stage of the project involves developing about 16,000-sq. ft. of new concession space in the apex of the American Airlines terminal area. "In the next several weeks we're taking on the largest project that we've ever done at one time in one area," Griggs says.
The increase in enplanements has been one of the driving factors behind the concession expansions. In 1994 the airport was taking in $3.20 per enplanement. By the end of 1999 it was bringing in $4.31 per enplanement, with 2000 projected to be at $4.46. One of the first local businesses to enter ORD was Berghoff Cafe, a family restaurant from the city, Griggs explains.
Wolfgang Puck's was a unique national brand that ORD brought into its concessions, he says. "When we renegotiated the contract with Host Marriott in 1996 we were really hard on them in terms of bringing in local flavor and also trying to break their envelope in what they had in their particular agreement," Griggs says.
The airport's DBE program has also increased. In 1995 it had 16 percent participation and currently it's operating at 36 percent. The city's goal was 30 percent. "So we're meeting all the benchmark criteria that we started out with and at the same time we started to develop brands out here that bring people into the space," Griggs notes.
North by Northwest
Farther north of ORD, at MSP, travelers can nearly exhaust themselves with the choices available for shopping and a bite to eat in its Northstar Crossing concessions area. Any security checkpoint winds you into the Crossing's Minnesota Mainstreet, an area brimming with birch trees and overarching greenery. The wide-open, woodsy space delivers a sense of the Midwest outdoors.
Chili's Too, tucked into the corner of the Mainstreet, greets passengers entering the gold concourse and offers a cozy dim-lit environment for reading the morning paper or it's "veranda" seating where customers can observe the hustle and bustle of the airport. The Mainstreet is aligned with brands such as Land's End and Bath and Body Works, as well as some local concepts like Bow Wow Meow for pet-lovers and the Spirit of the Red Horse and Minnesota store, with both offering outdoorsy retail.
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