The Real Deal New York

Anbang to work with preservationists on Waldorf conversion

Group says developer had opposed interior landmarks designation
September 16, 2016 12:25PM

The Waldorf-Astoria and Wu Xiaohui (inset)

The Waldorf-Astoria (inset: Wu Xiaohui)

Under pressure from preservationists, Anbang Insurance Group has agreed to maintain the distinctive Art Deco interior of the Waldorf Astoria during its condominium conversion of the iconic hotel.

While the exterior of the 1,413-room Waldorf is safeguarded by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the interior of the iconic building enjoys no such protection.

Members of the Landmarks Conservancy preservation group had previously met with representatives of Anbang and said the Chinese conglomerate was opposed to having the interior designated as a landmark, a claim Anbang denied, Bloomberg News reported.

“Anbang has never said it is opposed to landmark designation,” a spokesman for the company wrote in an email. “We are committed to working cooperatively and collaboratively with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to achieve an outcome that respects and reinvigorates the Waldorf Astoria for the next 100 years.”

Landmarks Conservancy president Peg Breen said “their representatives were very clear when they were speaking to us that they did not want any interior landmark designation. If they changed their minds now, that’s very good news.”

Anbang bought the Waldorf last year for $1.95 billion – a record price paid for a hotel in the United States. It’s planning to close the building in the spring and convert most of the rooms to condos. Bloomberg reported earlier this month it would be taking a break from its acquisition frenzy.

The Landmarks commission and the city’s Department of Buildings both have to sign off on Anbang’s plans because the alterations could possibly affect the outside of the hotel. Anbang has a surprislingly intricate ownership structure that includes rural Chinese villagers who own billions of dollars worth of shares in the company through a complex web of holding companies. [Bloomberg] — Rich Bockmann