The Real Deal Chicago

FAO Schwarz to open toy store in Midway as part of airport’s retail makeover

The city is planning to phase out the existing shops at Midway and replace them with 70 new retail brands by 2020
By Alex Nitkin | December 04, 2018 02:00PM

Midway Airport and FAO Schwarz’s now-closed flagship store in Manhattan (inset) (Credit: iStock)

Renowned New York toy store FAO Schwarz will join a revamp of the Midway Airport shopping concourse that’s on track to bring 70 new retail brands to the airport by 2020.

FAO Schwarz applied for a permit to add a store sign in the airport, according to city buildings department records. A city spokesperson confirmed the lease Monday but did not say how much space the store would take inside the city’s junior airport.

FAO Schwarz opened a 20,000-foot store earlier this year in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza, nearly three years after its parent company, Toys “R” Us, closed the flagship location on Fifth Avenue because of rising rents.

Local 0fficials touted the first phase of Midway’s retail makeover this summer, when the airport opened a 15,000-square-foot food hall with a Billy Goat Tavern and a Big & Little’s, a popular Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant based in Chicago. A Coach handbag store, Tumi suitcases and Kiehls cosmetics shop will also open in the airport over the next year or so.

The city has hired New Jersey-based Hudson Group, London-based SSP and Vancouver-based Vantage Airport Group to help phase out and replace existing shops and restaurants at Midway. The companies will aim to strike a balance between out-of-town names like FAO Schwarz and “authentic local brands” like Big & Little’s, officials said.

“We’re seeing from feedback that passengers want more things that look like Chicago, to give them a sense of place,” city aviation department spokesperson Lauren Huffman said. “But they also want some of those bigger household brands that they’re already familiar with.”

The reshuffle coincides with the construction of a $104 million new security concourse set to be completed at the airport in late 2019 or early 2020.

Meanwhile, officials are paring down the list of architects who are vying to oversee the city’s planned $8.7 billion expansion of O’Hare Airport, where dozens of new gates and a new hotel are expected to be added by 2026.