Retail Hubs

RETAIL HUBS Confined to their existing infrastructure, two airports share their renovation and expansion experiences By Jordanna Smida, Assistant Editor June 2000 Unlike the Pittsburghs of the world, when it comes to concession...

A food court is tucked away on a "side street" offering a variety of choices. Seating overlooks the tarmac and is accompanied by a streaming waterfall.

The Split Rock Bar & Grill represents Minnesota's Split Rock Light House that resides on Lake Superior's North Shore. It's ambiance is dark and quiet, accompanied by a fireplace adjacent to a wheat field mural.

Caribou Coffee, another locally owned concept that has gone national, has locations throughout the terminals. A popular stop for any jet-lagged traveler is Sola Squeeze, a natural fruit and juice, food and beverage operation. For those looking to escape from the airport environment, Lakeline Pub is located in the Red Concourse, offering a quiet and cozy English Pub atmosphere.

One of MSP's concession goals is to offer passengers extended customer service through business centers and a large conference center. Four business service centers will be located throughout the airport offering business travelers a place to plug in their laptop and conduct calls, among other things. The conference center offers business travelers the convenience to host meetings at the airport, says Gordon Wennerstrom, director of commercial management and airline affairs.

In the mid-1990s discussions within the MSP's Department of Aviation, followed by customer research, indicated that changes were needed to make the experience at MSP better for passengers. Concession improvements was one of those.

"The passengers told us they wanted more variety, more product, more brand names, and better price-value relationships," states Wennerstrom.

MSP management traveled to Tampa, Portland, Pittsburgh, and Orlando to view their concessions first hand. "Portland had to do like we did," shares Joe Anderson, MSP's retail and concessions commercial management and airline affairs. "They had to live with the physical footprint they already had and say, how do we make this better given the confines of this building."

In 1997 MSP began construction on Northstar Crossing, striving for a mix of local, regional, and national brands. "We tried to give the passenger a sense of what Minnesota is, what the upper Midwest is... San Francisco has cable cars, and New York City has the Empire State Building, but it wasn't a simple thing for us. There's no land mark that stands out in people's mind. So we tried to come up with a feel more than a landmark," Wennerstrom says. The program received various awards from ACI, World Airport Retail News, the Minnesota Shopping Center Association, and Shopping Center World.

As MSP continues to build on its Northstar Crossing, which represents the entire concession program throughout the airport, it will be expanding its Green Concourse and adding a new North Terminal, which will become an extension of the Minnesota Mainstreet. "About 140,000-sq. ft. will be transitioned in the upcoming projects; 80,000-sq. ft. of that is in the existing Northstar Crossing and about 60,000-sq. ft. is new development," explains Anderson.

Anton Airfood will be operating the food and beverage operations in the new development, and Paradies and CBR will operate the retail.

The Paradies Shops will bring in retailers such as the Big Ten Store. Brooks Brothers, Necessities, and Creative Kids Stuff will also occupy the terminal, and Travel Mart, designed to be an airport-side convenience store, will make its debut.

Aside of the additions and redevelopment of its concessions, MSP also has some unfinished business to attend to with its first part of the project: removing ductwork no longer in use. "Any building that was built in the 1960s is going to have anything from I-beams in the wrong place to asbestos, to a million wires that no one has a clue where they begin," Anderson states.

After MSP's Northstar Crossing opened its last store in June of 1999 the managers had to close four stores in order remove heating ventilation and air conditioning ductwork that was missed in the process of redoing the infrastructure, Anderson explains. The other end of the terminal where some ductwork still exists will be worked on in January 2001.

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