Last Saturday, Archtober sponsor Openhousenewyork (OHNY) invited guests to tour the midcentury modern Flight Center in all its nostalgic, and renovated-yet-still-abandoned splendor. Some excited attendees even paid tribute to Trans World Airlines’s glamorous mark in aviation history by arriving costumed in TWA-inspired attire. The Flight Center, designed by the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen but completed in 1962 after his death, served passengers for four decades until it was deemed impractical in accordance with evolving, heightened security measures in 2001. It was declared a New York City historical landmark in 1994, and inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Some of the original Saarinen design was demolished, but Beyer Blinder Belle designed a renovation of the head house, which was completed in 2011.
While Gensler’s JetBlue T5 partially encircles Saarinen’s terminal and sits adjacent to the Flight Center, the original head house remains empty. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey had opened a development project to bids from real estate and hotel developers in 2011, but contracts fell through, and the future of the project remains unresolved.
Earlier this year, contrary to belief that the disused terminal may be approaching its last hurrah, the Port Authority announced plans for continued restoration by again soliciting bids from developers with a deadline of this past Tuesday. Prior to revealing the project’s prospects, the Port Authority dedicated an estimated $20 million toward initial renovations. Possible additions may include hotel towers, a restaurant, and a lounge, and the Trump Organization, Marriott and the Related Companies, and Yotel are rumored to be possible contenders in the latest stage of the terminal’s development. The empty terminal’s current annual operational cost sits at $2 million (a steady split between security and operational expenses).
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Note: This story was updated to make note of the fact that Beyer Blinder Belle renovated the terminal in 2011.