We haven’t heard much about TWA Flight Center since we took our last look inside of it during Open House NY last year, but progress is finally being made on the hotel that will restore Eero Saarinen’s majestic structure to its Jet Age glory and open it to the public after more than 15 years of disuse. Today Governor Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials gathered to break ground on the TWA Hotel, set to open at the end of 2018.
Standing in the sunken, cherry-red conversation pit that was part of the Port Authority’s $20 million restoration of the terminal, Tyler Morse, the affable CEO of MCR Development, hyped a hotel that will offer some 500 guest rooms, eight restaurants, six bars, an outdoor observation deck, and 50,000 square feet of event space. One of the dining options, he announced, would be a food hall in the former check-in area that would double as “an incubator for small businesses with loyal followings,” all of them representative of the “home-grown food scene” in Queens and Brooklyn.
While the hotel’s rooms will be housed in newly built six-story wings set back from Saarinen’s building, the bird-like headhouse will be meticulously renovated.
“We are restoring the mid-century modern aesthetic that defined this moment in American history,” Morse said, “down to paying homage to Ralph Lauren and Valentino, who designed the uniforms for TWA flight attendants and pilots at the time. And we are bringing back the Paris Café, the Ambassadors Club, and the Lisbon Lounge to how they were in 1962.”
Newsflash : TWA Terminal to become huge luxury hotel with 500 rooms, an Infinity pool, and a top-notch restaurant-lounge-party space. Another sign that the entire world wants to visit Queens. #twahotel #twa #jetblue #jfk #jfkairport
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As we noted during our Open House NY trip, the structure’s lounges have mostly been stripped. The remnants of an IM Pei water fountain remain in the Ambassadors Lounge, the only food and beverage area that Saarinen designed. Pei’s contribution will be restored along with those of Charles Eames, Raymond Loewy, and Warren Platner.
Construction of the original Flight Center—an “architectural masterpiece,” as Cuomo put it— cost $12 million at the time. Its design required 600 drawings; in 1960, the Times wrote not one but two items marveling at 30-hour pours of concrete that resulted in the 5,000-ton roof.
Likewise, construction of the TWA Hotel will be a challenge. Morse noted that 125 firms and 22 government agencies were involved in the $265 million project. The LEED-certified hotel will even have its own power plant, so it can be off of the electrical grid.
Governor Cuomo, who remembered visiting the Flight Terminal while growing up in Queens, stressed that, for all of the preservation efforts, the hotel’s developer is “not building a museum.” That said, there will be a museum on-site. Fans of the project have already contributed old TWA uniforms and swizzle sticks, Morse said.
As for the swizzle sticks you’ll actually be able to swizzle, they’re coming soon. “I cannot wait to buy you a cocktail at the TWA Hotel,” Morse told the crowd.
Make it a martini.