New Luxury Hotel Cleared For Takeoff At JFK's TWA Terminal
Courtesy MCR Development
The future TWA Hotel.
In three years.
It’s official: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has cleared the way for a new airport hotel at JFK Airport that will abut one of the most famous landmarks in aviation: the mothballed TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen. This move means construction can begin around the registered historic landmark early next year, with the completed hotel scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2018, according to Thomas Bosco, the head of aviation for the agency.
The winning bid, a joint project of MCR Development (a major owner-operator of hotels in the U.S. who took the lead on Manhattan’s High Line hotel) and JetBlue Airways, envisions a hotel and conference center with 505 guest rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa, and even an aviation-themed exhibit space. It will consume two separate, six-story wings on either side of the iconic central concourse structure, which opened in 1962.
While some of the details were already known, renderings of the $265 million project were released yesterday and show for the first time what the complex will look like. The iconic TWA terminal will function as the hotel's lobby and public space; guest rooms will be located in the two adjacent low-rise towers, which, from the initial drawings released, are of a more conventional design that nonetheless appears to conform with the Saarinen edifice at its center.
Photo by Barbara Peterson
The current interior of the TWA terminal.
Saarinen’s masterpiece was shuttered in late 2001 after TWA ceased flying, and debate over its future has dragged on for years since. When the Port first asked developers for ideas back in 2006, it didn’t get a single bid; subsequently, several prominent hotel industry figures expressed interest, including André Balazs and Donald Trump. In the end, MCR CEO Tyler Morse, who had successfully transformed a brick seminary building in Chelsea into the upscale High Line Hotel, put together a proposal that would be economically viable—with a far larger hotel than the “boutique” property many expected.
MCR and JetBlue’s plan is to completely restore the terminal to its 1960s splendor—a hugely expensive undertaking since it entails repairing vintage ceramic tiles specially produced for the terminal during its initial 1960s construction, as well as reviving the original restaurant and cafe and an Austin Powers–style cocktail lounge (complete with orange leather upholstery).
The Saarinen building will be connected to the hotel wings and to JetBlue’s T5 via new walkways. And the accommodation is sorely needed; the airport’s only onsite property—the dilapidated JFK Ramada Plaza—closed several years ago and will likely be demolished.
As for JetBlue, the airline's role in the hotel is minimal—it only has a 5 percent stake in the project. "We're not getting into the hotel business," a source at the airline told Condé Nast Traveler.Of course, JetBlue passengers will likely feel some impact from the construction, but they'll also enjoy their proximity to the hotel once it opens. The hotel's facilities will be open to anyone passing through JFK and will be easily accessible via the existing AirTrain station.