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The TWA Flight Center is one of the most famous buildings in the world. Known for its wing-shaped shell, the Eero Saarinen-designed building has been an aviation and architectural icon since it opened in 1962.

The JFK terminal has been sitting empty for the past 17 years after it was shut down in 2001, shortly after American Airlines had taken over TWA (Trans World Airlines); the building didn’t fit the new carrier’s needs, so it simply closed up shop and moved its operations to a different part of the airport. TPG actually got a chance to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the old terminal last year, which you can watch in this episode of TPGtv.

TPG inside the TWA Flight Center at JFK.
TPG got to take a special tour inside the old TWA Flight Center at JFK last year.

Last week, Open House New York held a special panel discussing the plans for the TWA Flight Center Hotel, offering a sneak peek of some of its new features. Among the panelists was Tyler Morse, the CEO of MCR Development, who is leading the renovation of the building. Morse laid out the details of the project, saying the 505-room hotel will open in “late-2018 or early 2019.” A 50,000 square-foot event space is also being built underground in addition to six to eight on-site restaurants. Premium retail outlets and a food hall with 13 stalls will be featured in the renovated terminal as well.

While the terminal itself is getting a makeover, MCR Development is working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the City of New York to restore the building to the way it looked in 1962. Two six-story towers are being constructed to serve as the hotel and will sit between the old terminal and JFK’s current Terminal 5.

The inside of the TWA Flight Center in 1968. Image courtesy of Ullstein Bild via Getty Images.
The inside of the TWA Flight Center, as it looked in 1968. Image by Ullstein Bild via Getty Images.

While the TWA Flight Center Hotel will have standard features like a fitness facility, it’ll also sport some unique details that’ll make AvGeeks everywhere rejoice. A dedicated public observation deck is being built on the hotel’s roof, providing amazing views of JFK’s T5 and two nearby runways where you’ll be able to see jets take off and land.

The Constellation Club, Lisbon Lounge and Paris Café, one-time lounges, will be restored and turned into modern-day restaurants and bars — one of them will operate as a nightclub as well. Keeping with the 1960s theme, staff uniforms will be reminiscent of what TWA employees were wearing back then. Old-school split-flap boards that displayed departure and arrival times will be rebuilt and installed in the main terminal. An on-site museum is also in the works and will be dedicated to the terminal’s history. The terminal’s red-carpeted tubes will be returned to their former glory and will connect the old TWA terminal, the new hotel and JetBlue’s T5.

TWA was the first carrier to operate the Lockheed Constellation, a widely-used passenger plane introduced in 1945. Morse said a TWA Constellation aircraft will be restored and turned into a fully-functioning restaurant and bar that’ll be connected to the terminal, stationed between the two “tubes” of the building.

An old TWA Lockheed Constellation will be converted into a restaurant at the new hotel. Image courtesy of Hulton-Deutsch Collection via Getty Images.
An old TWA Lockheed Constellation will be converted into a restaurant at the new hotel. Image Hulton-Deutsch Collection via Getty Images.

In order to block out the noise of the airplanes flying in and out, the architecture team has created some of the thickest windows in existence — the seven pane, four-inch-thick windows should completely block out any aircraft and road noise.

The $265 million project — partly funded by JetBlue — involves 22 government agencies, 124 consulting firms, four architecture and design firms and nine law firms. The property will not be part of a chain, but an independently owned and operated hotel. Keeping the TWA brand alive was very important for the developer, who’s even worked with American Airlines and based the hotel’s logo on the old TWA design and color scheme. Morse said prices for a room will start at “roughly $250 a night,” which isn’t bad compared to other rates at many NYC hotels. He hopes the property will become a destination, not just another airport hotel for people who have a long layover.

Featured image courtesy of littleny via Getty Images.

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