To the dismay of many New Yorkers, the Waldorf Astoria closed its doors in 2017 for a huge renovation project that will ultimately create larger hotel rooms and add a new set of luxury condos. After the plans were announced, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the hotel’s first three floors as an interior landmark, meaning the new owners will need to preserve the 1931 Art Deco spaces. But after a four-year hiatus (the hotel will reopen in 2021) and a completely new vibe, it’s not clear if those interiors will have the same glamorous, old-school New York vibe that they were once famous for. Luckily, photographers James and Karla Murray captured the Waldorf in all its glory before it closed its doors. Ahead, take a tour of the old Waldorf, from its iconic, two-ton lobby clock to the three-tiered grand ballroom.
Anbang Insurance Group
Photo via Wikimedia
When the iconic Waldorf Astoria closed in 2017 for the massive renovation promised when Chinese company Anbang Insurance Group acquired it in 2014, the hotel’s future held jumbo condos and massive guest rooms. The fate of the Park Avenue landmark has been a topic of drama and discussion ever since, especially given the takeover of Anbang by the Chinese government after the incarceration of the company’s chairman, Wu Xiaohui, last year during a fraud investigation. The New York Post now reports that although contractor AECOM Tishman has signed a deal with Anbang and construction is underway for the promised 350 condos and 350 hotel rooms, the project’s completion date has been moved from 2020 to 2021.
Google Street View of 666 Fifth Avenue
Update 4/9/18: Vornado announced on Friday that it reached a “handshake” deal to sell its stake at 666 Fifth Avenue back to the Kushner Cos, according to the New York Times. It remains unclear if the Kushners have found a new partner. Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado, in the filing, said the payment would cover the company’s investment: “The existing loan will be repaid including payment to us of the portion of the debt we hold.”
Kushner Cos. said this week it is in talks to buy the remaining 49.5 percent stake in 666 Fifth Avenue from Vornado Realty Trust, furthering the drama at the 41-story Midtown Manhattan office building, according to the Wall Street Journal. The tower has remained one of Kushner Cos. most financially troubled projects. In addition to its debt and high rates of vacancy, the building has been mired in controversy, mostly due to Jared Kushner’s role as a senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump. While Jared divested in the property to avoid conflicts of interest, investors have been reluctant from entering a deal with Kushner Cos.
As 6sqft recently reported, ownership of the iconic Waldorf Astoria was among the properties involved when the Chinese government temporarily took over the debt-ridden Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group, a firm known for snatching up prominent and expensive properties around the world. There has long been speculation about a condominium project in the works, and Bloomberg reports that the project is moving forward. Signs of change: Effects from the building’s guest suites have been carted off by Scranton, Pennsylvania-based architectural salvage purveyor Olde Good Things, who is already is selling pieces of the storied hotel on its website.
Photo via Wikimedia
The Chinese government has taken control over debt-ridden Anbang Insurance Group, a Beijing-based firm known for snatching up prominent properties around the world for billions of dollars. One of those high-profile properties includes New York City’s iconic Waldorf Astoria, which the group purchased for $1.95 billion in 2014. According to the New York Times, the government takeover comes after Abang violated regulations, although the exact violations committed are unclear so far. Anbang will be overseen for one year by a group that includes China’s central bank, the country’s securities and banking regulator, the regular of foreign exchanges and other government agencies.
Photo via Wiki Commons
In the coming weeks, the renovation of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel will finally begin–a three-year process to convert much of the building to luxury condos. Hilton Worldwide Holdings, who had owned the landmark since 1972, agreed in 2014 to sell the 1,413-room hotel to Beijing-based financial and insurance company Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95 billion. Since then, the interior was landmarked, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was tapped to design the project, and the building closed to begin work. Now the New York Post reports that post reno, the Waldorf will only hold 350 hotel rooms–a number that’s “at the low end of recent estimates and much smaller than the number former Waldorf owner Hilton had expected,” according to the paper.
A rendering of 666 Fifth Avenue, courtesy of Kushner Companies/Zaha Hadid Architects
In 2007, Kushner Companies purchased a 41-story tower in Midtown for $1.8 billion, which was the most expensive real estate deal ever in the U.S. at the time. The transaction of 666 Fifth Avenue, coordinated by Jared Kushner, now a senior advisor to President Donald Trump, was ill-timed, making the purchase just before the economic recession. As the Washington Post reported, the Fifth Avenue project is one of the most financially troubled for Kushner Cos., with one-fourth of office space empty, and its lease revenue not covering monthly interest payments. While Kushner has divested his stake in the property to avoid conflicts of interest, the property’s value has dropped and foreign entities have withdrawn financial support. Currently, Kushner’s dealings are under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, as part of the broader investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
A rendering of 666 Fifth Avenue. Credit: Kushner Companies/Zaha Hadid Architects
As 6sqft previously reported, 666 Fifth Avenue owners Kushner Companies and Vornado Realty Trust have been seeking financing for a new skyscraper planned for the site of the Midtown office tower that Kushner purchased for $1.8 billion in 2007; Chinese company Anbang Insurance Group is said to have been considering a substantial stake in the tower. Though it was reported that the redevelopment could be valued at $7.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal now cites sources who say the value could be as much as $12 billion, and that a reported deal with Anbang may be far from a sure thing. That huge number represents the projected value of what Kushner envisions as a 1,400-foot-tall mixed-use luxury tower with a design provided by the late Zaha Hadid in 2015, nine floors of retail, a hotel and big-ticket luxury condos on its upper floors.