Government officials joined the real estate team from MCR Development on Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the planned hotel inside the former Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York City.
Opened in 1962, the TWA terminal remains a symbol of the dawn of the Jet Age, and it is a favorite for modern design lovers and aviation aficionados. Former TWA owner and eccentric industrialist Howard Hughes commissioned the Finnish architect Eero Saarinen to design the 310-foot-wide original concrete structure, which resembles a plane taking flight.
“There are only a few structures in the world that command the far-reaching fanaticism, reverence and sheer elation that this masterpiece around us inspires,” said Tyler Morse, the chief executive and managing partner of MCR Development.
“It embodies a time when our country was looking skyward,” he said.
The terminal has been vacant since 2001 when TWA closed, selling its remaining assets to American Airlines. New York City gave the building landmark status in 1994, ensuring that the hotel will maintain the exteriors as Saarinen originally designed them.
The luxury hotel is slated to open in 2018 with an estimated 500 rooms, as well as 50,000 square feet of event space capable of accommodating 1,600 people. Its eight eateries and six bars—including one restaurant inside an old TWA plane—will welcome hotel guests and JFK travelers alike.
Morse insisted on the value this hotel will bring to the greater Queens community, noting that casual food court will include only local Queens and Brooklyn establishments. Unionized workers will build and run the hotel, many of them from the nearby boroughs.
Construction began on the $265-million project back in August, in cooperation with the Port Authority and JetBlue, the carrier that operates the adjacent terminal and has a 5 percent stake in the project, according to the New York Times.
While all of the funding for the development comes from private investment, 22 public agencies are involved in the project. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined Morse and others at the groundbreaking ceremony to describe how the hotel would fit into his grand vision for a revival of JFK and La Guardia airports.
“They have built a hotel for the future,” Cuomo said of the developers. “They are banking, and betting, and believing on the future. They’re not building a museum; they’re building a business venture for the growth that is going to happen.”