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International terminal to get more restaurants, shops in $26-million makeover

Tocco restaurant chefs h O'Hare Airport Chicago for press preview redevelopment O'Hare's International Terminal 5.  | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Tocco restaurant chefs on hand at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, for a press preview of the redevelopment of O'Hare's International Terminal 5. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 18, 2012 6:37AM

International passengers at O’Hare Airport will have plenty of food and shopping options come next fall.

The Chicago Department of Aviation on Tuesday unveiled redevelopment plans that will add 15 dining and retail shops by fall 2013, including duty-free shops from high-end designers Bulgari, Michael Kors, Salvatore Ferragamo and Emporio Armani.

Twenty-five restaurants will be available for passengers, including Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera, Big Bowl, Wow Bao, Hub 51, Urban Olive and Tocco, as well as coffee from Intelligentsia.

The city hopes the revamped terminal will increase revenues and make the traveler experience more comparable to other international airports.

The City Council last year approved the 25-year $26.2 million contract with Westfield Concession Management to run concessions at the terminal. The deal guarantees a minimum of $7.8 million annually in rent once completed.

At a preview of the new concessions, city aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said it was high time for international passengers to get better amenities. The only food options for passengers currently passing through the terminal are fast food before security and on-the-go sandwiches and snacks after security.

“Four years ago when I started with the airport as a commissioner, you could not get a hot cup of coffee airside at O’Hare but for being in the lounge,” Andolino said. “And that truly was unacceptable, so this is long overdue that we’re able to provide our customers with amenities and services and just even a hot cup of coffee.”

More than a million passengers arrive at the terminal from 50 cities each year. Sixty percent of of those visitors never leave the airport, passing from one terminal to another.

Passengers also will see some very noticeable changes, such as revamped bathrooms and better lighting. And the route past security also will be a bit different. Passengers will be led through a duty-free shop after clearing a new security checkpoint, the department said.

It’s the first time the terminal is undergoing a renovation since it opened in 1993.

As city and airport officials tasted samples of the new offerings, Nick Rowe, 27, waited in line for a flight back to his hometown in Sweden. He travels through Chicago to get to Wisconsin at least twice a year.

Sweden’s aiport is much smaller than O’Hare’s but offers more dining options for international travelers, he said. “I think it’ll be a good thing for O’Hare,” Rowe said. “It’s time for a change.”

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