New York City's iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel has been closed for renovations more than a year now—but construction is moving along, and the second phase of the project has already begun.
Following its $2-billion purchase by China’s Anbang Insurance Group in 2014, the Waldorf Astoria closed its doors on March 1, 2017 for a multiyear renovation, after which it will reopen as a condo-hotel. The renovation is overseen by AECOM Tishman, a global infrastructure firm. AECOM Tishman served as the construction manager of record for the building’s initial demolition and pre-construction phase, which began in November 2017.
AECOM Tishman’s ongoing work includes construction throughout the building’s hotel and residential components, targeting completion in 2021. The property’s on-site residential sales office is also under construction at the corner of Park Avenue and 50th Street, in anticipation of the start of condominium sales next year. Anbang has also engaged consultants to oversee the preservation of several iconic Waldorf Astoria items, including the Cole Porter piano, the World’s Fair Clock Tower, the Kennedy Rocking Chair and the MacArthur Desk.
“The Anbang team is incredibly proud of the tremendous work accomplished so far at Waldorf Astoria New York, as we now enter the next phase of the building’s historic revitalization,” said Andrew Miller, executive director of real estate development at Anbang International (U.S.), in a statement. “AECOM Tishman has been an exceptional partner during initial construction, and we look forward to working alongside them to carry out one of the most extensive restoration and renovation projects in New York City’s history.”
When the project was first announced, redevelopment costs were estimated to reach more than $1 billion, making the hotel a very expensive experiment for Anbang. Upon completion, Waldorf Astoria New York will have approximately 350 residential condominiums, approximately 350 new guestrooms and suites and renovated public and event spaces for guests. The entry-level room category for the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel will cover 650 square feet, on average. Architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the executive architect for the entire project, and interior designer Pierre Yves Rochon is designing the hotel’s interiors and guest rooms.
The hotel, New York City’s largest private interior landmark, once had as many as 1,413 guestrooms, and opened in 1931 after merging the previous Waldorf and Astoria hotels. The removal of so many guestrooms from the hotel will understandably have a major impact on the property’s operations, and is expected to result in the loss of many roomservice and housekeeping jobs, as well as many other jobs linked to the hotel’s day-to-day business. This admission runs counter to what former Anbang Chairman Xiaohui Wu said during a 2015 conversation at Harvard alongside Blackstone Group Chairman Steve Schwarzman. "Our renovation will create a lot of job opportunities and increase the U.S. tax collection," he said at the time.
Hilton Worldwide, alongside Anbang, reached severance agreements with many of the hotel’s workers at an estimated cost of over $100 million.
Hilton, which will manage the property for the next century, reportedly gave Anbang a management discount. Following the Chinese government's seizure of Anbang, the property's future remains in question—but its aesthetic is still strong.