A Chinese corporation, Anbang Insurance Group Co., is reportedly finalizing plans for an extensive overhaul that would shut New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel in spring 2017 and convert up to two-thirds of its rooms into luxurious condominiums.
According to a source who asked not to be identified, the hotel is then set to reopen as many as three years later with only about 300 to 500 hotel rooms remaining. Nevertheless, reps from Anbang Insurance privately stated in an email that, “The scope and details of the renovation, as well as the exact timing and duration of the hotel’s closure haven’t been decided.”
Another source who met with Anbang executives in New York said in an interview that the Chinese acquirers of Waldorf believe that, “they can’t have a five-star hotel with that many rooms,” instead, the company intends to upgrade the remaining rooms into a high-end hotel that appeals to wealthy international travelers.
Anbang has already spent $1.95 billion acquiring the property and the redevelopment costs are expected to run to more than $1 billion, said people familiar with the plan. Analysts speculate that the move of shifting a portion of the building onto the condo market would give Anbang short-term returns amid the reported investigation by the Chinese Insurance Regulatory Commission on the insurer’s liquidity and business model.
Waldorf Astoria New York, at 301 Park Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, is a 47-story Art Deco landmark building designed by architects Schultze and Weaver that was completed in 1931. Over the past century, the Waldorf Astoria gained international renown for its lavish dinner parties and galas, often at the center of political and business conferences involving the rich and famous.
Meanwhile, Anbang’s founder and chairman is Wu Xiaohui, the grandson-in-law of Deng Xiaoping. To get rich is glorious!
By Chong Li