The Orient-Express Hotels group's deal to purchase the NYPL's Donnell Library branch on West 53rd Street was a heartwarming tale, to some (not others). The aging five-story Midtown library was to be razed in favor of an 11-story luxury hotel that would connect to Orient-Express's historic "21" Club on 52nd Street. A smaller library would then occupy the first and basement floors of the new building. The Donnell Library was shuttered and cleared, and all was good to go. Until real estate development as we knew it in New York ended. Now, the Times reports, Orient-Express has informed the New York Public Library that, thanks for asking, but we're not going to be able to do that $59 million deal we were talking about. Oopsie. So now what?
In a piece written for Library Journal, Norman Oder (yes, Norman Oder!) quotes Orient-Express CEO Paul White in a conference call with analysts discussing the deal:
"Yeah, I mean just we -- clearly I'm not going to -- I'm not going to put another $43 million into a project in this environment. I think the -- that the big positive here is that the members of the New York public library board that we deal with are actually big names in New York real estate development, so they fully understand what is going on." "The outcome will be, I think, one is -- from one extreme that we may well get a very soft deferral for a couple of years," he said. "On the other hand the library may decide to return to their premises and we might have to forego our deposit. At the moment, it's very much under discussion and the tone of the discussion is such that I feel that this is going to -- this will have a positive outcome both for us and for the library."
The library building returned to the library? Better make sure it's not overdue first.
· Hotel Company Backs Out of Library Purchase [NYT]
· Hotel Company Backs Out of Plan for NYPL's Donnell Library Site [Library Journal]