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Hungry travelers at Midway Airport have even more reasons to smile now when searching for dining and shopping options to satisfy their appetites and shopping-on-the-go needs.

A bright new airy 15,000 square-foot Food Hall has opened in Concourse A in what was once a previously undeveloped area at the airport. The transformation of the space, which includes floor-to- ceiling windows, generous seating, and easy to access restaurants and retail, is a welcome addition.

The total $75 million concessions transformation project, which includes an expansion and renovation of all new and existing concessions locations is part of Midway Partnership, a joint venture made up of Vantage Airport Group, SSP America, and Hudson Group. To date more than 1,000 Chicago residents have been hired for concessions jobs as part of the redevelopment that began in 2017.

“Today we celebrate investments that are working to ensure our airports remain competitive, while creating new jobs and continued economic growth for the City,” said Mayor Emanuel. “These new restaurants represent more than what people will eat before they get on their planes, they have helped create 1,000 jobs that put food on the table for each of those employees. And these are the types of investments we will continue making in Chicago and for our residents.”

“One year in, our Midway concessions redevelopment is already benefitting the city and the traveling public by bringing in fresh new retail and dining options this summer,” said Jamie L. Rhee, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA). “We are proud that this program features so many iconic Chicago brands, as well as a committed team of local operators and employees who are working alongside us to deliver an enhanced experience at Midway.”

The six new brands located in the Concourse A Food Hall embody the character, cultural diversity, and taste of Chicago which travelers can experience and enjoy without ever leaving the airport. Local favorites headline the plethora of delicious choices.

These retail and restaurant favorites include Arami, a branch of the popular West Town Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded Japanese restaurant owned by Ty Fujimura; Billy Goat Tavern, a Chicago staple placed on the national radar through infamous Saturday Night Live skits; Woodgrain Neapolitan Pizzeria, a wood- red pizza chain with three locations in the western suburbs; Chicago’s world-famous Nuts on Clark featuring freshly made caramel corn, cheese corn, kettle corn and nut mixes; a new sit-down location of Reilly’s Daughter, the South Side traditional Irish pub operating in Oak Lawn since 1976. A brand new iStore also joined the mix in the Food Hall, too. The Apple authorized reseller and tech store offers cell phone accessories, music enjoyment, gaming, and more.

“My son Robert, daughter Carla, and I,” said Estelle Kenney, owner and manager of Nuts on Clark, a popular Chicago brand, “are delighted at the success of Midway Partnership. It’s a wonderful transformation and a beautiful modernized enhancement for commerce in Chicago and for the travelers dining pleasure.” Following the official Midway festivities, they quickly returned to their store to offer samples to a line of smiling travelers.

Earlier this year, three other Chicago favorites opened in the Main Terminal, Concourse B: BIG & littles, offering fresh, casual food acclaimed by food critics and residents alike; Porkchop, which tempts with southern style comfort food like BBQ chicken, rib racks and tender pulled pork; and Camden food co. for healthy eating on-the-go.

More eateries and brands are scheduled to open or begin construction by the end of the year, too, such as Big Shoulders Coffee, DeColores (quick serve Mexican fare), and Hubbard Inn; plus Einstein Bros. Bagels, Fuel Bar, INK by Hudson, FAO Schwarz, U.S. News & World Report, and Where Traveler News + Gifts.

In addition to exploring the variety of tasty options at Midway, other customer-friendly amenities are available to heighten the airport and traveling experience. A Yoga Room in Concourse C provides travelers a calming space. It highlights nature scenes and soothing music to renew the spirit. Right next door, traveling mothers are welcome to relax in the tranquility of the mother’s nursing room which is equipped with a chair, sink, and wash area to refresh.

Over the next three years, a carefully crafted, phased approach will completely transform Midway’s existing concession offerings. The changes will be dramatic. The total concessions area will increase from about 40,000 square feet to over 70,000 square feet.

The full redevelopment will occur in six phases, bringing over 70 food and retail brands to the airport by 2020. “Midway Partnership is proud to partner with the City during an important time for aviation
in Chicago, and to bring a new world-class program in collaboration with the community,” said Midway Partnership CEO Sammy Patel. “We have brought together the best global experts in airport management, dining and retail to deliver the very best program for Midway. Over the next three years, our program will give passengers a sense of place by showcasing the best of Windy City’s food and retail offerings.”

When complete, travelers will experience a dramatically new look at Midway. They’ll have the opportunity to enjoy five new full- service restaurants providing world-class customer service. In addition to the new Concourse A Food Hall, a new Central Market with an expanded menu of food and wines will be added; and other new amenities to ensure the airport remains a premier choice for its customers.

The Concessions Redevelopment Program is a critical part of the largest investment plan for Midway Airport. It’s the tip of the iceberg of the soaring changes to take place. It is all part of the Midway Modernization Program, announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, which directs a $323 million investment into the airport.

Through the current Midway Modernization Program, the airport will undergo security checkpoint and terminal garage expansions. The CDA is widening the passenger bridge over Cicero Avenue from its current width of 50 feet to nearly 800 feet. It will create an 80,000 square-foot security pavilion with an efficient TSA checkpoint operation. A new pavilion will open with up to 18,000 square- feet for new concessions. The targeted completion date is Winter 2019.

Another critical portion of the program is the terminal parking garage expansion which will add an additional 1,500 new parking spaces close to the terminal building by expanding the existing terminal parking garage to the east over the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) maintenance yard. Parking entrances will also be enhanced to improve transit access from the CTA Orange Line with an upgraded pedestrian walkway. The “pedway” will feature a modern, temperature-controlled corridor with new elevators and escalators to improve pedway access. The estimated completion date is Fall 2020.

Midway Airport (MDW) has long been a part of Chicago’s history. It was dedicated in 1927 by Mayor William H. Thompson, just six months after Charles Lindbergh made his historic transatlantic flight. Midway served as Chicago’s primary airport until the opening of O’Hare International Airport in 1955. Over the years, as air travel has expanded, Midway has taken-off , grown, and transformed. In 2017, passenger volume exceeded 22 million travelers.

By  Patricia M. Szpekowski

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