ACO, Guggenheim interested in Chicago airport

Ten proposals are in for Gary/Chicago International Airport P3.

The hunt to find a private operator for Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary, a city in the US state of Indiana, has garnered candidates mostly from beyond the conventional infrastructure space.

Out of the 10 businesses that responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP), only ACO Investment Group and Guggenheim Partners ring familiar with the asset class, or would typically be considered infrastructure-related.

Instead, the majority of the feedback for Gary/Chicago came from what would characteristically fall loosely under the banner of commercial real estate.

For example, proposer Arch Group is a real estate developer, as is Financial Network Center, a Washington, D.C., firm which is leading a consortium teaming Purify Solutions, IE2 and Visage 1.

Global Commodities International Group (GCI Group), a buyer and seller of heavy construction equipment, has teamed with Clark Street Development, commercial real estate services firm NAI Hiffman and financial services provider Williams Capital Group to put in a bid.

In addition, Chicago-area nonprofit organization Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), consultant MXD Development Strategies, broker-dealer and municipal underwriter Rice Financial Products, and freight shipping and tracking company Z-Force Transportation each separately bid on the airport public-private partnership (PPP; P3).

The RFP also drew a distinctly avant-garde proposal: Renditions Studio is a Porter, Indiana art collective that is interested in developing what owner Deborah Landry called a “community-based something” integrating local art into the design and marketing of the project.

Guggenheim, meanwhile, has teamed with airport concessionaire AvPosts Management and Chicago investor Loop Capital. For its part, ACO bid on the Chicago Midway International Airport P3 in April.

A widely circulated statement from Carrie Hightman, chair of the Gary/Chicago ad-hoc P3 committee, praised the “breadth” and “expertise” the RFP elicited. Airport spokesman James Ward said the committee would declare a potential operator in the fall.

Zane Gresham, a lawyer with Morrison & Foerster and adviser on the privatisation of Luis Munoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico, questioned the appeal of Gary/Chicago, which currently has no commercial air carrier, as a private asset.

“Gary/Chicago is going to be challenging,” he said.

The bid to privatise Gary/Chicago was put out to tender in July.