Thousands of visitors were expected at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday to get a last look at the iconic architecture of the Trans World Airlines Flight Center before the futuristic 1960’s building is converted into a hotel.
The terminal, built in 1962 as an uplifting symbol of the Jet Age, was designed by renowned Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen, who also created St. Louis’ Gateway Arch. The terminal’s cavernous arched white ceilings will be renovated to include guest rooms, conference space and an observation deck.
The “Mad Men”-era edifice, now a national historic landmark, was used by TWA until the airline went bankrupt in 2001.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in September the approval of the $265 million hotel project, funded mostly by a partnership between JetBlue Airways Corp and MCR Development, the seventh-largest hotel owner-operator in the United States, according to its website. The 500-room hotel is expected to open in 2018.
“It is one of the most incredible pieces of architecture that you could walk into,” said Jim Steven, manager of redevelopment for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the owner of JFK Airport in the New York City borough of Queens.
Steven said he expected up to 5,000 people to visit the terminal on Sunday, part of the annual Open House New York event aimed at inviting visitors to tour buildings that are typically closed to the public.
Each year, former TWA employees wearing their old uniforms are among those who return to the beloved mid-century modern-style building, which first opened during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.
“We know that there are people flying into New York City to see that building,” said Gregory Wessner, executive director of Open House New York. “This year, I think there’s a special attraction to it.”
Tyler Morse, chief executive for MCR Development, said he planned to keep the terminal the focus of the hotel, preserving its striking architectural features while adapting the space into a lobby flanked by two six-story towers with guest rooms.
“We want to bring it back to life as it was in 1962,” said Morse, who plans to break ground on the project in the summer of 2016.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Alan Crosby)