Those of you from the New York area have no doubt followed the saga of the old TWA terminal at JFK International Airport. Closed to passenger use since 2001, the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal nearly had a date with the wrecking ball a few years later, but was spared at the last minute after being designated a historic landmark. The structure has been sitting in limbo since then, with various rumors popping up now and again concerning a redevelopment opportunity, but nothing concrete ever coming through. Recently, though, competition to take on the project has really heated up, and late last week, word spilled out that should make travel enthusiasts everywhere rejoice – the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has reportedly selected a consortium led by JetBlue and MCR Development to repurpose the TWA Flight Center into a hotel. The PANYNJ board will reportedly make an official announcement at its regularly scheduled meeting next week.
Travel enthusiasts have long admired the TWA terminal for its unique appearance – it looks like a bird taking flight – and the groundbreaking technology it employed at the time. It was, for example, one of the first terminals to use jetways, and featured a departure board with automatically-changing flight numbers and times. Ultimately, though the desire to preserve the structure and the history that went with it saved it from the wrecking ball, it also slowed down efforts to redevelop it; there was a strong desire, after all, to keep as much of the original structure in place as possible. Although details are scarce, a Crain’s New York article suggests that the proposed 505-room hotel will actually be built next to the terminal, with the terminal itself becoming the main lobby. The proposal also calls for up to 40,000 feet of meeting space and up to eight on-site restaurants, but the real pièce de résistance is what will reportedly sit up top – a 10,000 square foot observation deck overlooking the runway. Heck, on my next roadtrip up the East Coast, I’d even consider driving out of my way to stay there just to enjoy the experience…
See also: Mike’s report on Another Visit to the TWA Flight Center
This really is great news on many levels. Those who have been wishing that the historic terminal would be redeveloped into something in keeping with its original character will get their wish, as I have no doubt that JetBlue will provide an extra helping of aviation themes throughout the property. Passengers with early morning flights or overnight layovers at JFK will finally have an on-airport hotel option, something the airport currently lacks but sorely needs. And for all you AvGeeks and planespotters out there, that observation deck promises to be phenomenal. You’ll have to cool your jets for just a little while longer, though. Construction is expected to begin in early 2016, with a target completion date of 2018.
Photo at top: frontal view of TWA Flight Center by Mike Cargian, from Behind the Curtain