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March 2, 2017

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Waldorf set to transform into mixed residences

THE word “grand” matched few hotels in the world better than New York City’s Waldorf Astoria, but this bastion of gilded splendor is now closing for two to three years for a transformative makeover.

The last guests checked out by noon yesterday after enjoying the rich Art Deco style of the old Waldorf one last time.

When the building reopens it will still have a hotel, but hundreds of its 1,400 guest rooms will have been converted into privately owned condominiums, according to a spokesman for the Anbang Insurance Group, the Chinese company that bought the storied hotel for nearly US$2 billion in 2015.

The exterior is protected by law as a New York City landmark.

Plans for the renovation are still not finalized, but some in the hotel industry said the new Waldorf will mirror the concept of New York’s Plaza hotel, which was renovated a decade ago into a mix of private apartments and a smaller hotel. About 1,500 hotel employees are being laid off due to the closure.

Anbang bought the Waldorf in 2015 from Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, which continues to operate it.

“This can be a great real estate transaction, if they can get enough money selling the condominium units to cover the purchase price,” said Bjorn Hanson, professor of hospitality and tourism management at New York University.

As renovation work starts, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission must vote on whether to preserve certain interior details of the building.


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