Intrigue has followed China's Anbang Insurance Group ever since it acquired New York's Waldorf Astoria in 2015. Now, six months after the hotel closed its doors, there is confirmation that work will commence to overhaul and renovate the hotel starting in December, and that the finality of the project will bring the hotel room count down to 350 total rooms, complemented by approximately 350 residences.
Anbang has hired construction firm AECOM Tishman to oversee the first phase of construction work.
According to a press release, since the Waldorf Astoria New York achieved the designation as New York City’s largest private interior landmark, Anbang has made "significant progress towards renovating the property."
The development team has advanced design plans, secured permits and preserved and stored prized historic items, including the Cole Porter piano, the World’s Fair Clock Tower, the Kennedy Rocking Chair, and the MacArthur Desk.
“After months of meticulous planning and careful preparation, we are ready to begin the next phase of the renovation and have assembled an exceptional team to advance the project. We look forward to working closely with AECOM Tishman to carry out one of the most extensive restoration and renovation projects in New York City,” said Brandon Dong, Managing Director of the Waldorf Astoria New York Project of Anbang. “The Waldorf Astoria New York is truly a global icon and quintessential New York City landmark, and our combined team shares a commitment to preserving this historic property’s legacy and restoring its original beauty while elevating it to set a new standard of luxury and hospitality.”
"The Waldorf Astoria New York is where our brand’s history of timeless luxury and inspirational environments began,” said John T.A. Vanderslice, global head of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. “We have been working closely and collaboratively with Anbang on the renovation of the Waldorf Astoria New York and we are confident that the restoration will ensure that the hotel retains its rightful place as a focal point for New York City and a premier destination for the world.”
Anbang released plans for the building’s interior and exterior elements in March 2017 from architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and interior designer Pierre Yves Rochon (PYR).
The time span between now and when Anbang first acquired the property has been littered with curiosity and rumor. In June, Anbang Chairman Wu Xiaohui was detained by Chinese authorities; this was followed by reports surfacing pointing to China's wish for Anbang to sell its overseas assets, including the iconic hotel. In October, The Real Deal reported that Hilton, the seller and now manager of the hotel, was caught off guard and miffed upon learning that Anbang intended to pare down the hotel room count to so little from the original 1,413 hotel rooms.