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O’Hare to get $30-an-hour hotel suites

Stranded travelers sleep O'Hare June 2011. |  Sun-Times Library

Stranded travelers sleep at O'Hare in June 2011. | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: March 15, 2013 1:21PM

Air travelers will soon have a place to rest their weary heads between flights at O’Hare Airport — and it won’t be those infamous cots opened in passenger terminals during snowstorms.

With assurances that O’Hare will not become a “no-tell motel,” the City Council agreed Wednesday to allow second-floor space in the rotunda between Terminals 2 and 3 to be turned into 29 “extended-stay suites” for weary air travelers.

Minute Suites plans to offer suites for $30-an-hour or $120 overnight for travelers in by 11 p.m. and out by 7 a.m. The 62-square-foot suites will include a daybed sofa, workstation, high-definition TV and personal computer with internet access.

Aldermen signed off on the agreement, one of 10 new concessions at a dozen locations at O’Hare domestic terminals expected to collectively generate at least $5.6 million in annual revenues for the city.

But not before Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino put to rest their concerns about creating a staging round for terrorists and about hourly rentals that could turn Minute Suites into a haven for sexual trysts.

“The commissioner has guaranteed us that we won’t turn O’Hare into the No-Tell Motel,” Aviation Committee Chairman Mike Zalewski (23rd) told his colleagues last week.

Daniel Solomon, co-founder and CEO of Minute Suites, said the rooms are designed “very much like an office suite” and are not appropriate for sexual liaisons.

The license agreement guests are required to sign also states that Minute Suites is “not a hotel” and that company employees have “access to individual suites at any time,” Solomon said.

“If we would suspect that anything [untoward] is ever done — and staff are trained on that — we do have systems in place. Somebody who would commit something that is illegal — they’ll never be a guest with us again,” he said.

Andolino acknowledged under questioning that there are no guarantees and no policing consenting adults.

“What a couple wants to do on their private time, I can’t control that,” she has said.

But Andolino has argued that 50 percent of the travelers who pass through O’Hare “never leave” the airport and need a quiet place to unwind.

“It’s just a space ... that’s controlled, monitored and you have to pay for that has a very sanitized, safe environment for them to either catch a few Z’s or do their work. We’re providing an amenity our customers are looking for,” she said.

Ald. John Arena (45th) raised the security concerns without mentioning the word “terrorist.”

“You could look at this as a closed space that, if somebody was gonna look to cause some trouble, this would be a good opportunity,” Arena said.

“What does this company do in terms of additional security? … What are they doing to make sure that, within their space, that room is not used to allow for somebody to prepare to do something that we don’t want to happen at the airport.”

Andolino dismissed those concerns as unfounded.

“This is air-side. You have to have purchased a ticket to fly somewhere in order to gain access to the site and you have to pay for the use of this site,” she said.

“It’s not just a corner somewhere that someone can sneak in and just hang out. This is a monitored, controlled site.”

During last week’s Aviation Committee hearing, Solomon said his guests attendants escort people to their rooms through hallways monitored by surveillance cameras, then rely on airport security.

“Our staff have on speed-dial the TSA or the police, so if there is an issue, they can quickly get someone to attend to it,” he said.

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