The $33 million construction contract proposal is expected to come before the full City Council at its Jan. 27 meeting.
The proposal ran into a roadblock when it was first presented in September, when the primary builder was Walsh Construction. It since has been revised, and the council’s Black Caucus, the Department of Aviation and cargo facility developer Aeroterm all say they’re happy.
“We’re glad to see this project proceed,” said caucus head Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th. “They listened to our concerns.”
“This is an historic moment and project for Chicago and the nation: the first time a major construction project at O’Hare led by a Black-owned company (and) the first time in the nation for a Black contractor to build a significant cargo warehouse on airport,” Aeroterm lobbyist Chuck Bernardini said.
Beyond that, he said, the builders are promising to raise the minimum minority business enterprise subcontractor participation to at least 40 percent.
“As one of only a handful of airports that are both major passenger and cargo hubs, this improves O’Hare’s competitive position,” said an Aviation Department spokesman. “Over the past several years, O’Hare has been No. 1 or 2 among airports in cargo by value, going back and forth with (John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York).”
Even as O’Hare’s passenger traffic dropped by two-thirds last year amid the pandemic, total cargo tonnage that passed through the airfield was up 12.6 percent through November, hitting 1.85 million tons, he added.
The pending deal is the third and final phase of an overall 1 million-square-foot expansion of O’Hare’s cargo space, with most of the first two phases already leased up. In addition to the $33 million construction contract, another $22 million is being spent on a fuel facility, design and other related matters.
Ensuring that MBEs get a significant cut of work at O’Hare has been a continuing issue for Black and Latino aldermen, particularly as the airport continues with its huge $8.5 billion expansion and modernization of terminals and other ground facilities.