Further confirming an earlier report, the landmark Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is closer to undergoing a transformation from storied hotel to mostly luxury condominiums. The establishment could be closed for two years for renovations, starting in the spring, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Chinese conglomerate Anbang Insurance Group bought the Midtown property for $1.95 billion in 2014—which then prompted President Obama to ditch the hotel as presidential lodgings. As many as 1,100 of the current 1,413 rooms will be turned into condos; the WSJ also reports, "The vast reduction in Waldorf hotel rooms will lead to the elimination of many room-service, housekeeping and other hospitality jobs. The Waldorf has about 1,500 hotel employees. The new owners and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., which will continue to manage the property when it reopens, have reached severance agreements with hundreds of these workers at a cost of $100 million or more..."
It's believed that the company will spend up to $1 billion on renovations. While an Anbang spokesperson told the newspaper, "We continue to explore all options. We have no definitive plans at this time," Anbang's chief Xiaohui Wu said last year at a Harvard recruiting event, "We expect a good return with our Waldorf investment. To achieve the high value-creation, we plan to renovate the two towers into luxury residential apartments with world class amenities and finishes to reflect its culture and social status. A potential buyer needs to have more than money to qualify for our apartments. At the same time, we will build the hotel section into a super five-star hotel, delivering unparalleled customer experience and incorporating Anbang’s customer-orientation culture. We are also considering the addition of some Chinese elements: a new restaurant serving high class Chinese cuisine is a possible option. Recently, news regarding our Waldorf purchase flooded the Internet in China, which brought us extra brand recognition and business opportunities. This is what I call the spillover benefits."
In other words, Anbang is hoping for rich Chinese nationals to buy apartments. Meanwhile, the condos at the Plaza Hotel turned out to be a "terrible investment."