Hakimian changes Midtown hotel plans to residential

Project at 244 West 49th Street will have 136 apartments

Ben Hakimian, founder, Hakimian Organization; 244 West 49th Street (Google Maps, KSU)
Ben Hakimian, founder, Hakimian Organization; 244 West 49th Street (Google Maps, KSU)

“When events change, I change my mind. What do you do?” Nobel-winning economist Paul Samuelson famously said.

The Hakimian Organization does too.

The real estate firm filed documents changing a 113,000-square-foot Midtown project from hotel to mainly residential. The new application calls for 136 residential units.

The company, founded by brothers Ben and Joe Hakimian, purchased the site, 244 West 49th Street, in 2003 for $13.1 million and were partnering with Gorjian Properties to develop a 96,000-square-foot hotel there.

In 2015, Hakimian acquired 16,000 square feet of air rights from the landmarked Helen Hayes Theatre, completing an assemblage to develop a 246-key hotel by renovating an eight-story, 58,000-square-foot building and adding 16 floors. The project never got off the ground.

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Hakimian did not respond to requests for comment.

The change in plans comes during a rough time for hotels. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed international travel and to a lesser extent domestic tourism. An April study by commercial brokerage CBRE predicted that hotel revenues would not recover to 2019 levels until 2024.

As of August, nearly 41 percent of New York metropolitan area hotels that are backing CMBS loans — representing about $1.4 billion of debt — were on a watchlist designed to warn investors of mortgages that may be transferred to special servicing. That was up from about 38 percent in January, according to Trepp.

When hotel owners pleaded for help from the government, the City Council and de Blasio administration threw them an anchor instead, requiring them to either reopen or pay $500-per-week severance to their out-of-work staff. The industry is challenging the unprecedented law in court.

Last week, Hakimian sold 75 Wall Street’s hotel portion, titled Andaz Wall Street, to Navika Capital Group for nearly $85 million.

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