NEW YORK â Rotary dial phones. Iconic midcentury modern architecture. Â TaB sodas in the mini-bar.
If that sounds like it could be 1962, thatâs by design. Itâs all part of the DNA of the new TWA Hotel thatâs set to open next year at New Yorkâs John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Anchored around the landmark TWA Flight Center that opened in 1962 as the jet age dawned, the airport property is one of the most-anticipated hotel openings of 2019.
Itâs easy to see why.Â Â
The 512-room hotel will featureÂ two new six-story towers that flank the old TWA terminalâs âhead house,â an architectural masterpiece designed by Eero Saarinen. The terminal is in the process of being converted into a 200,000-square-foot lobby t the hotel claims will be the worldâs largest.
The TWA Hotel will include six restaurants and eight bars. One of those, a cocktail bar, will be housed in a refurbished Lockheed âConstellationâ aircraft that was a staple of the TWA fleet in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
âPeople appreciate differentiation these days,â says Tyler Morse, CEO of the MCR and Morse Development firms that areÂ spearheading the redevelopment of the TWA site. âWeâre kind of living in one giant Walgreenâs. Itâs a very homogeneous world.â
The TWA Hotel, Morse says, will shake that up. Â
Already, enthusiasts â both aviation and architectural â have eagerly awaited each new detail to emerge about the iconic structureâs rebirth as a hotel.
âOur phones are ringing off the hook,â Morse says. âPeople are wildly excited about this project.
Veteran travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt is not surprised.
âI have not seen a new hotel attract the level of interest from travelers, aviation enthusiastsÂ â evenÂ the hotel industry itself â as the TWA Hotel has,â says Hartevdelt, who worked for now-defunct TWA in the 1980s.
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The TWA terminal was last used for flights in 2001Â and has been empty since. The building has since been declared a New York City landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
Already, visitors are intrigued by a rooftop pool that will afford views of the airfield â not to mention the Constellation and the hotel-lobby conversion of the TWA FlightÂ Center that’sÂ now in progress.
Â The TWA Hotel will formally unveil the look and layout of its standard rooms on Tuesday. USA TODAY got a sneak peek ahead of the official public unveiling.
âWeâre bringing back the magic of 1962,â Morse says, describing the property as an âexperiential hotel.â
âEverything weâre doing is unique and bespoke,â Morse adds during a preview of the rooms at a JFK hangar where MCR has put together a âtop-secretâ full-scale mock-up of what will be a standard room at the hotel.
The standard rooms are on the small side, averaging 325 square feet. Forty-four of the hotelâs rooms will be larger suites, with the biggest topping out at around 1,200 square feet. All will include aesthetics that are sure to appeal to aviation and design buffs.
They’re fronted withÂ floor-to-ceiling windows; most afford guests views of either flight activity on the airfield or a panorama of the TWA Flight Center itself.
“You can walk right up to the window and watch the planes take off and land,” Morse says of the airfield-facing rooms.Â
Even the hotel beds are positioned so that guest will fall asleep with a view out the window.Â
âWhen you wake up, you see the airfield,” Morse says, tipping his hat to aviation enthusiasts.Â “If youâre an ‘avgeek,’ this is pretty cool.”
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Morse also predicts the TWA Hotel will be one of the world’s quietest, thanks to a seven-pain curtain wall he says is among the thickest in the world.Â
“We’re at an airport. People expect it to be noisy, so we overcompensated,” he says.Â
The decor of the rooms, handled by architecture and interior design firm Stonehill Taylor, could be mistaken as a museum exhibitÂ highlighting midcentury Americana, though thereâll be a separate aviation- and architecture-themed museum for that on site.
Guests will be able to make callsÂ on vintage 1950s-era Western Electric 500 rotary-dial phones, with no charges for either local or long-distance numbers.Â
âWeâre buying them on eBay,â Morse says, noting there arenât many other places to track down working rotary phones these days. âThey replace the guts of the phone,â swapping out the old analog technology for a modern connection.
No word yet on whether there’ll be instructions for guests too young to have ever encountered such a phone.Â
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Some of the phones rotary phones destined for guestrooms were visible in warehouse next to the hotelâs room mock-up at the JFK airport hangar.
Other items in the warehouse included everything from art to glassware to robes and slippers. All were tested for both usability and their aesthetic fit into the roomsâ overall aesthetic. Â
Among the items in the testing warehouse: dozens of pencils, which Morse suggests are more complicated to choose than one might think.
âWhat size fontâ for the TWA Hotel branding? âDo you die the eraser TWA redâ or leave it uncolored? And what about the metal bracket holding the eraser? âWe chose silver shiny,â Morse says, holding up an example.
Airport as a destination?
Airport hotels are rarely regarded as destinations in themselves, left to the province of stranded travelers or those overnighting ahead of a 6 a.m. flight.
But Morse thinks the TWA Hotel â about 15 miles from Manhattan â can pull it off.
Though a number of other hotels line JFKâs periphery, the TWA Hotel will be the only one on the airportâs actual grounds.Â But Morse believes the lure of the property will go beyond.
âThirty percent of our business will be events, celebrations and corporate meetings,â he says, adding that the hotel anticipates hosting 100 weddings and 50 bar mitzvahs each year. Â
Harteveldt thinks the TWA Hotel might actually be able to extend its reach beyond that of a typical airport hotel, but “aÂ lot will depend on their execution.”
“There will be a lot of people interested in trying it,” he adds. “The question is, âwill they be successful enough to get repeat business?âÂ They have to treat it as a destination hotel … as a true first-class, four-star or better hotel.”Â
Morse also struck that theme during the room preview.
“We donât want to open so wildly hot and then die,” he said, noting the importance of offering aÂ solid product over the long haul. “IÂ donât like cool hotels, because âÂ by definition âÂ cool is ephemeral. What is cool today is not cool tomorrow. What we want to do is a good product and a terrific experience.”
âWe donât want to be a flash in the pan,â Morse adds.
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