The Port Authority Thursday chose a partnership of JetBlue Airlines and a Manhattan-based developer to turn the former Trans World Airlines terminal at Kennedy Airport into a hotel complex, to be the first such on-airport site in Queens when it opens in 2018.
The authority's board, at its monthly meeting, approved the 75-year lease, giving Flight Center Hotel -- consisting of JetBlue and MCR Development -- the right to build and operate two six-story hotels adjacent to the iconic TWA Flight Center on the nearly 5.8-acre site.
The landmark terminal, with its wing-shaped roof and expansive walls of windows showcasing jets departing and arriving, will serve as the hotel's lobby, while the 505 guest rooms will be housed in the two new buildings, according to the Port Authority, the bistate agency that manages the airport.
"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," said Patrick Foye, the authority's executive director.
Plans for the hotel complex also include restaurants, 40,000 square feet of space for conferences, meetings and events, as well as a 10,000 square foot public observation deck and a museum focusing on New York's role in the jet age.
The TWA Flight Center, designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen in 1962, served as the airline's terminal until it went out of business in 2001. Since then, the terminal, declared a national historic landmark in 2005, has remained virtually vacant.
The joint venture plans to spend $265 million to construct the hotels and refurbish the terminal, which is connected to JetBlue's Terminal 5 via two elevated walkways. In exchange, the Port Authority will spend $8 million to build a pedestrian plaza and covered walkway from an existing AirTrain station to the new hotel. The authority will receive a percentage of the revenue the hotel complex will generate and rent, which the authority estimates will be $70 million over the life of the lease.
A study, released last year by Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy group, found that 16 airports in North America with the highest passenger traffic, including those in Chicago, Miami and Montreal, all have hotels on airport grounds. Today's travelers, short on time, are willing to pay higher prices for the convenience of having access to a hotel on airport grounds.
MCR, which owns and operates 89 hotels across the country, including the High Line Hotel in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, across from the elevated High Line park, is expected to begin construction next year.
"Accessible to the general public, as well as all airlines from all terminals, the 505-room hotel at the rehabilitated TWA Flight Center will be a tremendous amenity for the entire JFK International Airport," said Tyler Morse, chief executive of MCR Development.