Developer Begins City Review Process For TWA Flight Center Hotel at JFK Airport

Rendering of the TWA Flight Center Hotel. Via MCR Development.Rendering of the TWA Flight Center Hotel. Via MCR Development.

The TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport has been out of commission for 14 years, but if all goes according to plan, it will welcome a new slew of visitors starting in just a few years. MCR Development is planning to redevelop the landmarked 1962 Eero Saarinen building into the TWA Flight Center Hotel. It got approval from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in September, but yesterday announced that it is commencing the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP.

The plan is for two six-story buildings set back from the former terminal. They would house 505 hotel rooms, of which 22 would be suites. The terminal itself would be restored “to its 1962 glory” and there would be six to eight food and beverage outlets. The entire complex would also include 40,000 square feet of conference, event, and meeting space. It would be LEED-certified. There would even be a 10,000 square foot public observation deck atop one of the hotel buildings, the perfect spot for sipping a martini while watching the planes take off. The developer says the entire $265 million conversion will be done without government subsidies.

“From labor to building trades to aviation and mid-century modern aficionados, we’ve seen a groundswell of support for our plan to preserve the iconic Saarinen Terminal and permanently reopen it to the public as JFK’s first top-of-the-line, on-site airport hotel and museum,” said Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR Development. “We are proud to play a part in revitalizing JFK and we look forward to continuing our work with the surrounding southeast Queens communities and the City as we begin the formal public review process.”

The TWA Flight Center with JetBlue Airways Terminal 5 as seen in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass

The TWA Flight Center with JetBlue Airways Terminal 5 as seen in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass

The TWA Flight Center sits in front of JetBlue Airways’ Terminal 5, constructed in 2008. When the terminal has been open to the public since its shutdown, mostly for the annual Open House New York Weekend, visitors have been able to walk through the iconic flight tubes, which used to lead to gates, to JetBlue’s terminal.

Flight tube at the TWA Flight Center as seen in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass.

Flight tube at the TWA Flight Center as seen in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass.

“As New York’s Hometown Airline, we are proud to support MCR’s redevelopment plan, which preserves the terminal’s historical importance while also returning it to the public for all to enjoy,” said Rich Smyth, Vice President of Corporate Real Estate at JetBlue. “This hotel not only benefits JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers, but also furthers the entire airport’s position as a leading global hub for aviation.  We look forward to welcoming the TWA Flight Center Hotel to our front door at our Terminal 5.”

MCR estimates the project will create a total of 3,700 jobs between those that are for construction and those that are permanent. Completion is expected in 2018. Of course, in addition to getting through ULURP, the project will have to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Thankfully, the terminal was designated both an individual and interior landmark in 1994.

Visitors inside the TWA Flight Center during Open House New York Weekend in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass.

Visitors inside the TWA Flight Center during Open House New York Weekend in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass.

“Turning the historic – but empty – TWA Flight Center into an on-site hotel and conference center at John F. Kennedy International Airport will honor legendary architect Eero Saarinen’s futuristic 20th century terminal with a visionary 21st century use,’’ said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye.

The JFK control tower as seen from the TWA Flight Center in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass.

The JFK control tower as seen from the TWA Flight Center in October 2014. Photograph by Evan Bindelglass.

Anyone who has been there appreciates that the building’s lines are amazingly beautiful from almost every angle. Hopefully, this conversion will be done sensitively and a whole new generation of people will be able to really appreciate Saarinen’s work.

The developer has set up a website for the conversion at twaflightcenterhotel.com.

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