Get set to re-live the Jet Set.
The Swinging ’60s are coming back to New York in the form of the TWA Flight Center Hotel at Kennedy Airport.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and representatives of MCR Development, the company heading up the project, broke ground on the hotel Thursday in the old TWA terminal, closed since the airline folded in 2001.
The hotel, connected to JetBlue’s Terminal 5 by a pair of tunnels, will feature eight restaurants and bars, 505 guest rooms and an observation deck where people can watch planes take off and land. It will be the only full-service hotel at the airport.
The old check-in area will house a food hall featuring small businesses from Brooklyn and Queens.
“This really was the jet age and ‘The Jetsons’ and it all happened here, it all happened in Queens. And it was extraordinary when it happened,” Cuomo said about the TWA Flight Center.
“This project, to me, is not about yesterday, it is about tomorrow.”
The center first opened in 1962. It was landmarked by the city in 1994 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
The hotel is expected to cost about $265 million in private money and open in 2018, according to Cuomo’s office.
The project is expected to generate 3,700 jobs, including union construction and hotel positions, and was approved by the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners.
The main area of the hotel is being renovated in keeping with Eero Saarinen’s midcentury design. Saarinen, a renowned Finnish designer who created many of Knoll’s most famous pieces, also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Washington Dulles International Airport.
The main building of the hotel — where the bars, restaurant and meeting spaces will be — is crowned by a sunken lounge area with red carpeting and built-in red benches. A large departures board updates flight information against the picture windows.
The building will eventually be flanked by a pair of six-story towers where the guest rooms will be housed.
“What we’re going to do with this project is bring back the ethos of 1962,” said Tyler Morse, the CEO of MCR Development.
Morse said when the building first opened it “reflected the promise of aviation” and featured previously-unseen things travelers take for granted today, like enclosed passenger getaways and baggage carousels.
“The terminal became increasingly less functional over the years, but it grew as a repository of countless memories: first-time fliers, immigrants coming to America for the first time,” Morse said. “We’re re-opening this aviation icon 50 years later.”
Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, said the hotel project exemplifies a promising future.
“One of the things that excites me about this structure is that I look forward to bringing my children here,” she said. “And as that iconic structure stands here, and as we see visions of the past, we also see greatness in the future.”
Cuomo called JFK “the gateway to the world,” and said the airport carries more than 50 million people each year. By 2050, that number is expected to reach 90 million.
“They are banking and betting, and believing, on the future,” Cuomo said about the project. “They’re betting on New York and they’re betting on JFK and JFK’s growth. And they’re right to do that.”
But he cautioned that the city, and the country, have not been keeping pace with the rest of the world in terms of development.
“Somewhere along the way we lost that energy of 1962, somewhere along the way we lost that confidence of 1962 — at least in terms of government,” Cuomo said, adding: “The problem is, if you don’t build and grow, someone else will.”
Cuomo said the state will put up $1 billion to help fund partnerships with other airlines to rebuild terminals.
“I believe in New York, I believe in New York’s future,” he said. “I believe we will continue to grow and I believe in our capacity to get things done.”
TWA terminal facts:
– The terminal opened in 1962 and sported what were then state-of-the-art features like enclosed passageways between the terminal and jet, closed circuit TVs and baggage carousels.
– Its design was meant to reflect wings that soar into the air.
– In 1994, the city designated the terminal as a landmark.
– The terminal shut down operations in 2001. A new terminal, which is operated by JetBlue, opened in 2008 with a building that encircles the original space.