Ho­tel at iconic TWA ter­mi­nal will evoke glam­our of jet age

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION - By Karen Matthews

NEW YORK >> When it opened in 1962, the sleek TWA ter­mi­nal at New York’s Kennedy Air­port was the em­bod­i­ment of jet-age style. Now, construction is un­der­way to trans­form the land­mark into a $265 mil­lion ho­tel that will con­jure the same glam­our, smack in the mid­dle of an air­port bet­ter known for con­trolled chaos than com­fort.

The ho­tel, be­ing built by New York-based MCR De­vel­op­ment, will in­clude two new build­ings with 505 rooms, a rooftop pool, an ob­ser­va­tion deck where guests can watch planes take off and a mu­seum stocked with ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing uni­forms lent by for­mer TWA flight at­ten­dants. But the star­ring fea­ture will be the long-closed TWA Flight Cen­ter, de­signed by ar­chi­tect Eero Saari­nen. The cen­ter will be pre­served, along with its Charles Eames fur­ni­ture and Noguchi foun­tain, as the ho­tel’s lobby. “I’ve loved the TWA build­ing since as far back as I can re­mem­ber. It’s such an in­cred­i­ble struc­ture,” said Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR De­vel­op­ment. “It’s this ca­coph­ony of mid­cen­tury mod­ern de­sign all un­der one roof,” he said. “To bring that back to life was very ex­cit­ing.”

The gull-winged ter­mi­nal, which looked like some­thing out of the TV show “The Jet­sons” and opened the same year as the an­i­mated se­ries, was a sym­bol of flight and a fa­vorite project of Saari­nen, who also de­signed the St. Louis Gate­way Arch. It closed in 2001 when TWA was ac­quired by Amer­i­can Air­lines.

The iconic struc­ture is pro­tected by the city as a land­mark and can’t be torn down, but its destiny was un­cer­tain be­fore the Port Author­ity of New York and New Jer­sey, which op­er­ates the re­gion’s ma­jor air­ports, be­gan so­lic­it­ing bids for a ho­tel op­er­a­tor sev­eral years ago.

MCR, which owns 94 ho­tels in 24 states, was the win­ning bid­der with JetBlue, a 5 per­cent mi­nor­ity owner. The ho­tel is sched­uled to open in early 2019. It will be the first ho­tel at the air­port prop­erty since the Ra­mada Plaza, fairly dis­tant from the ter­mi­nals, closed in 2009. The only other ho­tels near the air­port are bud­get ac­com­mo­da­tions a short drive away by shut­tle bus or taxi. The rooms will start at $250 a night. The tar­get clien­tele, Morse said, will in­clude busi­ness trav­el­ers as well as avi­a­tion “geeks” in­ter­ested in the land­mark TWA ter­mi­nal and in the lo­ca­tion.

Tourists are un­likely to use it as a base for ex­plor­ing the city. It is a long sub­way ride or drive from Man­hat­tan, but just min­utes from all of the air­port’s ter­mi­nals by mono­rail.

A scale model of the ho­tel, built for mar­ket­ing pur­poses,

opened last month at One World Trade Cen­ter in lower Man­hat­tan. It is filled with retro items like swiz­zle sticks and a front page from John Glenn’s 1962 space flight. A sound track fea­tur­ing Frank Si­na­tra singing “Fly Me to the Moon” and The 5th Di­men­sion’s “Up, Up and Away” plays on a con­tin­u­ous loop while a tele­scope is point­ing at Kennedy Air­port, 12 miles to the east, links the space to its par­ent ter­mi­nal. A mini-fridge is stocked with Tab.

TWA mem­o­ra­bilia in­cludes first-class china and flat­ware and uni­forms worn by pi­lots and flight at­ten­dants. Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est are the pa­per “Ital­ian toga,” ”French maid” and “English wench” out­fits from the sum­mer of 1968, when TWA ex­per­i­mented with dis­pos­able host­ess uni­forms. Chris Betz, event co­or­di­na­tor for the space, said some of the ar­ti­facts will go

to the mu­seum at the ho­tel when it opens.

Many of the uni­forms and other items came from or­ga­ni­za­tions of for­mer TWA em­ploy­ees that formed af­ter the air­line shut down. “I’m pleased that the build­ing is be­ing taken care of and put to a spe­cial, good use, and I re­ally hope they are suc­cess­ful with it,” said Judy Ger­ling, pres­i­dent of TWA Clipped Wings, a group of for­mer flight at­ten­dants. Ger­ling, who worked for TWA from 1965 to 1989, said air travel was spe­cial in the era the ho­tel will evoke. “Ev­ery­body dressed up,” she re­called. “The women wore dresses, hats and gloves. The men wore suits.” First-class pas­sen­gers were served their meals in cour­ses with linen nap­kins. “Even in coach we al­ways had a choice of two or three en­trees,” Ger­ling said. “Now you get a choice of peanuts or not.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TOS

An AirTrain passed the TWA Ho­tel Tues­day at New York’s John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port. The $265 mil­lion ho­tel, where construction is un­der­way, will fea­ture a rooftop pool, an ob­ser­va­tion deck and a mu­seum. The ho­tel is sched­uled to open in early 2019.

A model of a Lock­heed Su­per Con­stel­la­tion and a vin­tage de­par­ture board are dis­played at an in­stal­la­tion at the com­pany’s retro meet­ing space at One World Trade Cen­ter in New York. The show opened last month.

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