CHICAGO—Chicago Perishable Center Inc. has a proposal with the city to lease 27,000 sq. ft. in a terminal at O’Hare International Airport to provide, for the first time, on airport storage and delivery of perishable items.

Under the agreement proposed Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the firm will operate an on-airport center to take delivery of and process time-sensitive perishables such as flowers, food and medicine. The company is a consortium of local business interests based in the Chicago area. The term of the agreement is for seven years, with three one-year extensions.

The company will pay for and provide all dedicated infrastructure for the development and operation of the perishable cargo center, including cooler space to store products, onsite fumigation to prepare product for sale in accordance with federal customs procedures, and office space to accommodate customs agencies and industry distributors. The building provides direct airside ramp access to the airfield for planes.

“A perishable cargo center at O’Hare represents a tremendous opportunity to bring new commerce, economic activity and jobs to the Chicago region and beyond,” said Emanuel in a statement. “O’Hare is a global gateway that will provide the most direct connection to markets across the world. The center will position Chicago to grow as a marketplace for a diverse array of goods, such as fresh flowers and food, from around the world.”

He said the center, which will open in 2014, is anticipated to grow into an international exchange for perishable goods, including eventually bringing to Chicago new nonstop cargo traffic from South America and Europe. Miami International Airport, with its ties to the Latin American food and flower producer market, has historically served as the nation's port of entry for the majority of perishable air cargo imports. The Midwest provides a large market for these products, but primarily receives them after long truck trips from Miami, instead of rapid, direct delivery by air.