One of New York City’s most famous hotels is closing for a makeover. The Waldorf Astoria, an elegant Art Deco skyscraper that was the world’s tallest hotel when it opened in 1931, has hosted countless foreign dignitaries, celebrities and every US president from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama. It inspired dishes like the Waldorf salad and may have invented the concept of room service. But the 1481-room hotel temporarily closed its doors on 1 March for a complete overhaul.
The renovation project, which is estimated to take three years, will transform most of the hotel into luxury condominiums and will refurbish the remaining rooms. “We had no choice. It has to be classic, but it’s an 85-year-old building,” says Michael Hoffmann, Managing Director of the hotel.
Visitors who have marked special occasions and memorable vacations in the Astoria’s bars, restaurants and ballrooms can take heart, though: these spaces are expected to reopen to the public when the hotel does. To ensure that its distinctive style is maintained, New York City councilman Dan Garodnick is pushing to designate the hotel’s interior, with its ornate finishes and two-ton clock tower topped by a miniature Statue of Liberty, as an official landmark (the exterior of hotel was granted that status in 1993).
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While the Waldorf Astoria has long included a handful of private residences (famous tenants include composer Cole Porter, whose piano still resides in the lobby), the shift to a condominium majority is a drastic change for the property. But it’s a growing trend among historic hotels in New York City, thanks to skyrocketing real estate costs – the Plaza hotel went through a similar transformation in 2005.
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