Before bringing their plans to three local community boards, MCR Development Chief Executive Office Tyler Morse opened the doors to the terminal to a group of reporters and discussed the plans.
“I think this building needs to come back to life,” Morse said, standing in the massive space.
So Morse and his company are putting their money where their mouth is: $265 million to be exact. Back in September, Governor Andrew Cuomo formally announced the approval on a 75-year lease agreement with Flight Center Hotel LLC, a partnership of MCR Development and JetBlue Airways, which will have a 5 percent stake.
“This administration has committed to modernizing New York’s airports for the 21st century by creating gateways worthy of New York City, and ensuring travelers have the services they need,” said Cuomo in a statement in September. “At the TWA Flight Center, we are able to meet those goals while also preserving its iconic design for passengers to enjoy for decades to come.”
The iconic terminal would be open to the public, not limited to guests or travelers. Morse added they they are in talks with the Port Authority to figure out a way to possibly validate parking so those that wanted to come for dinner or just see the revitalized space won’t have to pay airport rates.
Inside the revitalized terminal, the plan calls for six restaurants and four bars. One of those restaurants would be a market, drawing in 12 local vendors.
“The plan is to bring small, up-and-coming operations who have great food and an incredible following,” Morse said.
Inside the rest of the terminal, Morse says everything would stay historically accurate and the plan is to renovate it to look exactly as it did when it was first opened in 1962.
“Everything is being done with historical accuracy,” Morse said. “We’re not trying to change things.”
If the ULURP process goes favorably and the project is given the green light, developers are hoping to be under construction by summer with the project opening in 2018.
For Morse, the project also takes on a special meaning. He said his wife calls it their “third child.”
“It’s a real tragedy that it’s been sitting here,” Morse said. “So we have to put it back together.”
He called the building, originally designed by architect Eero Saarinen, “one of the most important buildings in America.”
In addition to the restaurants and bars, the projects would have 505 hotel rooms adjacent to the terminal, along with 40,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck. The project will also bring 3,700 jobs to the region.
“Our objective is to hire locally, so we’ll do a lot of outreach,” he said.
Morse said that they have received tremendous support from the Port Authority as they’ve gone through the planning process.
“The Port Authority is proud to ensure that the TWA Flight Center plays a critical role in JFK Airport’s future, while acknowledging its importance in aviation history,” said Port Authority executive director Pat Foye. “The new hotel will serve the growing needs of our passengers throughout the 21st century, with a touch of the bygone era of glamorous mid-20th century jet-age travel.”