After three years of redevelopment work, the TWA Hotel at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airporthas opened to the public this week, showing off a retro-chic vision of sloping white concrete and miniature subway tiling, all awash in chili pepper red, the color that original architect Eero Saarinen custom-designed nearly 60 years ago.
Other U.S. airports have on-site luxury hotels, such as Dallas Fort Worth International Airport’s Grand Hyatt and the H Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, but none are quite the same as TWA Hotel, which is essentially a repositioned piece of American history. It shows the latest U.S. public space development with a design to reflect a specific historic era.
The 512-room hotel once stood as the TWA flight terminal, which opened in 1962, when flying on an airplane meant dressing up, stretching out, eating a good meal and even smoking a cigar. Hotel owner MCR Development has restored the building to its former grandeur – now-defunct TWA was the airline heralded for bringing travelers into the modern jet age – but has redeveloped it via a private-public partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
MCR has a long-term ground lease with the Port Authority. Airline JetBlue is a minority investor in the property’s repositioning, and its terminal is directly connected to the hotel via elevator and red-carpeted tunnels, as seen in the film “Catch Me If You Can.” In total, the project involved 22 government agencies and more than 170 firms, according to MCR.
The hotel is opening just as New York is expected to achieve another record year for tourism. The number of visitors has increased annually for the past nine years, and 2018 set a record of 65.2 million. According to tourism organization NYC & Company, about 67 million is forecast to visit the city in 2019.
In a newly released report, professional services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers said it had a stable outlook on the U.S. lodging industry through 2020, forecasting 2% annual growth in revenue per available room, or RevPAR, the benchmark industry measure, over the coming two years.
TWA Hotel boasts a spate of amenities that hearken back to the luxe high-flying days of the 1960s. It has the largest hotel fitness center in the world at 10,000 square feet. Few, if any, other hotel lobbies compare to its massive 200,000 square feet. The on-site event hall spans 50,000 square feet.
There are six restaurants and eight bars, including the 200-seat Jean-Georges cafe, sunken lounge and The Connie – a Lockheed Constellation L-1649A airplane converted into a cocktail bar.
There’s a 63-by-20-foot rooftop infinity pool that will be open 365 days a year. During winter months, it will turn into what MCR is calling a “pool-cuzzi” that can be heated up to 100 degrees. The pool sits on a 10,000-square-foot observation deck with rooftop lounge.
Tucked into corners along its undulating walls are retailers such as Detroit-based watch and leather goods maker Shinola and Warby Parker, which rather than selling eyeglasses operates a specialty shop selling pencils for charity. Herman Miller has teamed with publisher Phaidon to open a reading room. An Intelligentsia coffee bar within the lobby is planned along with a food hall operated by Fooda.
Key to keeping the hotel fresh is cultural programming, according to MCR. The New York Historical Society has been tapped to curate museum exhibits throughout the hotel. For the opening, there was a display on the evolution of air travel fashion from the 1940s to 1990s.
Two wings of hotel rooms flank the property, sheathed behind glass curtain walls that are 5.5-inches thick. The design means that hotel guests can watch planes take off without hearing them, Alberto De Gobbi, president and chief executive of Fabbrica, which created the glass walls, said in a statement.
Each room, which will cost about $249 per night through May, features floor-to-ceiling windows. Here’s a look at the new hotel: