BY MICHAEL STAHL
The landmark TWA terminal at JFK Airport appears to be on the fast track toward a transformation into a 505-room hotel described as “world-class” by those behind its reimagining, MCR Development.
Queens Community Boards 10, 12 and 13 unanimously approved the construct’s conversion recently, the first of several seals of approval MCR will need to procure before officially moving forward with its plans. Still, with this collective decision accompanied by vocal support from Governor Cuomo, the renovation and renaming to the TWA Flight Center Hotel is likely to get a green light soon.
Airport goers can expect to see two six-story buildings incorporated into the rear of the original terminal, which first opened in 1962. Designed by Eero Saarinen, it featured a modern, space-agey aesthetic, helping the terminal become an iconic travel destination for decades and, eventually, an official city landmark. Unable to welcome more sizable contemporary aircrafts though, TWA closed the terminal 14 years ago, just as the airline itself was folding. Saarinen’s structure has been preserved and will serve as the new luxury hotel’s lobby, should MCR have its wish – they still need City Council, City Planning Commission and Queens Borough President Katz’s blessings. Last week MCR said they had a “very positive hearing at Queens Borough Hall with Borough President Katz.”
Privately funded and expected to cost $265 million, the TWA Flight Center Hotel will include 40,000 square feet of conference, event and meeting space, along with several new bars and eateries. An observation deck spanning 10,000 square feet is sure to provide some outstanding vistas, while an as-yet unannounced level of LEED certification is also anticipated. Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR, also hopes to open an “innovative museum” at the site, “focusing on New York as the birthplace of the Jet Age, the storied history of TWA Airlines, and the Midcentury Modern design movement.”
MCR Development’s portfolio boasts the 60-room High Line Hotel in Manhattan, recognized by Travel and Leisure as one of the world’s best hotels. That site too saw a renovation three years ago, as it once housed the General Theological Seminary.
“We are proud to have the widespread support of the southeast Queens community for our plans to restore the Saarinen Terminal, one of the world’s most famous architectural icons,” Morse said in a recent statement. “When completed, the Flight Center will not only preserve a world-famous mid-century landmark, but will also provide 3,700 permanent and construction jobs.” Morse has also been quick to note the fact that JFK Airport is the first stop for many international travelers visiting the U.S., while the project’s official website says “the full-service hotel will provide a game-changing amenity” for those passing through.