New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel is scheduled to close in 2017 to allow its Chinese owners to begin converting almost three-quarters of its rooms to luxury condominiums, according to reports late Sunday.
The Waldorf Astoria New York on Park Avenue opened in 1931 and was the largest hotel in the world at the time. Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels, acquired the management rights to the Waldorf Astoria in 1949. In 1993, it became an official New York City landmark.
In 2014, Hilton Worldwide announced it will continue to manage the hotel for the next 100 years under the terms of a $1.95 billion sale to Anbang Insurance Group.
The Chinese insurance company’s restoration plan calls for the closing down of the 1,413-room property in the spring for up to three years, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. As many as 1,100 hotel rooms are set to be removed, eliminating hundreds of hotel jobs, the report added.
When the hotel reopens, it will feature between 300 and 500 luxury guest rooms with the remaining units to be sold as condominiums.
The move will lead to the elimination of many room service, housekeeping and other hospitality jobs. The new owners and Hilton have reached severance agreements with hundreds of these workers at a cost of $100 million or more, according to the Journal’s report. The Waldorf currently has about 1,500 hotel employees.
Anbang has mostly avoided press attention since its failed takeover effort for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. after the Chinese company walked away from its $14 billion offer for Starwood citing “various market considerations.”
Anbang Chairman Xiaohui Wu previously hinted at his company’s vision for the Waldorf Astoria early last year when speaking before an audience at Harvard University. He reportedly said he planned to convert hotel rooms to condos and suggested that there would be an element of exclusivity.
“A potential buyer needs more than money to qualify for our apartments,” the Journal quoted him saying to the Ivy League crowd.
However, there is no official confirmation on the plan. “We have not finalized any plans in terms of the scope, nature and details of the renovation project or the exact timing and duration of the hotel’s closure. We are currently developing conceptual plans and will share additional details once those plans are finalized,” a U.S.-based spokesman for Anbang told Reuters.