Waldorf Astoria Condo Conversion Continues Project Gears Up Despite Owner's Financial Issues

Waldorf Astoria Condo Conversion Continues
The Waldorf Astoria (iStock.com).

In 2016, The Cooperator ran a piece on the business of condominium units existing within a larger hotel property. The article was inspired by news that the iconic Waldorf Astoria had been purchased by the Chinese company Anbang Insurance Group, which planned to convert up to 1,000 out-of-circulation rooms into condos. (That number was reduced last year to 409, according to Anbang's CPS-1 filing.)

However a  little drama unfolded between then and now that left the deal up in the air for some time. For starters, Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui was detained in mid-2017 by Chinese authorities for alleged economic improprieties. Then, in mid-February, the Chinese government gained temporary control of the company, leaving its assets in question.

Despite all of this, the condo conversion appears to be moving forward. The first signs of this were reported by Bloomberg on February 28th, when a visit to the property turned up both debris being loaded into trucks from the north side of the property, as well as the van of an architectural salvage company out of Pennsylvania.

From Bloomberg:

“The [salvage] company, Olde Good Things, already is selling pieces from the hotel’s interior on its website. Items for sale include light fixtures fashioned from Venetian glass and French crystal, along with more than 40 marble mantels carved in a variety of styles, including a Louis XV rococo piece listed for $14,000. More affordable items include steak knives ($25 each), silver-plated doorbells ($45) and towel racks ($250).”

(Interesting aside: the Scranton, Pennsylvania-based Olde Good Things is actually owned by the Church of Bible Understanding, which was founded in Allentown in 1971 by Stewart Traill, a former vacuum cleaner salesman. The church has been accused of being a cult, with ex-members claiming that Traill encouraged them to cut off ties to their families and forced them to work for very low wages. Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning, one of the church's business ventures, was parodied as “Sunshine Carpet Cleaning” in the season eight episode of Seinfeld called “The Checks,” in which George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, is dismayed to find that he is unworthy of cult recruitment.)

The gutting of hotel rooms for parts would seem to indicate that some change was afoot. On March 19, The Real Deal reported that an offering plan for the 352-unit “The Towers at 301 Park Avenue” luxury condominiums had turned up on the New York State Attorney General's office website. The sponsor was listed as AB Stable LLC, an affiliate of Anbang.

Clearly, 352 units is slightly fewer than the 409 listed in the CPS-1 filing, and way off from the initially lofty 1,000-unit estimation, so it remains to be seen what the final layout will look like. But according to The Real Deal, condo units will be spread among floors 14 through 43, with floors 14 and 15 containing 28 units apiece, and the distribution growing more sparse as one goes higher. Floors 40, 41, and 42 are slated to have just two units each.

No pricing information for the condos is currently available. The Cooperator will follow this story as it develops.

Mike Odenthal is a staff writer at The Cooperator.

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