What retirement? Sam Chang files plans for Midtown hotel

Prolific developer previously blamed new hotel zoning restrictions for putting him “out of business”

150 West 48th Street and Sam Chang (Credit: Google Maps and iStock)
150 West 48th Street and Sam Chang (Credit: Google Maps and iStock)

Competitive pigeon racing may have lost a major player.

Hotel developer Sam Chang, who told media earlier this year he was winding down his real estate business to focus on racing the squat-bodied birds, has filed plans with the New York City Department of Buildings for a new hotel at 150 West 48th Street.

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Sam Chang (Credit: Chang via Alchetron; iStock)
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From left: Sam Chang, 52 William Street and New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council's Peter Ward (Credit: Google Maps)
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Chang bought the site earlier this year from the Rockefeller Group for $140 million, according to Crain’s. Earlier this month, S3 Capital Partners provided him with $250 million in financing for the development.

The DOB filings show the hotel will span 300,216 square feet and and stand at 34 stories tall. It will include 974 rooms, and will not offer enclosed parking. Architect Gene Kaufman, a frequent partner of Chang’s, is listed as the applicant. Neither responded to requests for comment.

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The project is the latest in a long list of hotels developed by Chang, whose firm McSam Hotel Group helped to establish a new type of budget hotel in the 1990s.

However, a new law restricting hotel development in manufacturing zones soured his view of the industry in the past year, and he told the Wall Street Journal in May that the lawmakers behind the measures were “pretty much putting me out of business.”

At that time, he had scaled back on buying development sites and was cutting back his hotel holdings from 31 to 10.

In addition to hinting at retirement, Chang said he would focus more of his energies on pigeon racing — a hobby that traced back to his childhood in Taiwan. Chang reportedly owns hundreds of homing pigeons. One cost him as much as $25,000.

However there were early signs that the retirement plan wouldn’t stick. In August, McSam Hotel Group purchased a Chinatown parking garage for $18.75 million, breaking a year-long hold on purchasing development sites.

Chang is also facing a lawsuit from Club Quarters over the firm’s former management agreement at a Wall Street hotel. Separately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for an investigation into Chang’s alleged firing of workers at the hotel, who voted to unionize over the summer.

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