Just a week ago it seemed that the long-stalled redevelopment plans for 666 Fifth Avenue would be moving forward. Anbang Insurance Group, the Chinese firm that owns the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, was reportedly interested in buying a major stake in the 41-story building. That investment would provide Kushner Companies, which purchased the building a decade ago, with about a large cash infusion that would help the firm to reconstruct the space into a supertall tower.
UPDATE (3/29/17): Chinese developer Anbang is no longer involved with this deal, the New York Post has learned. A spokesperson for Kushner Companies told the Post that it had ended discussions with Anbang. The Post speculates that this sudden change has largely to do with the negative publicity generated by talks of the deal. Kushner Companies will try to avoid foreign investors altogether for this project, according to the Post.
The redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue has not been put on hold however and Kushner Companies is still in discussion with various investors to move the project forward, according to the Post.
However, the Wall Street Journal reports that the potential deal is far from set—and a confluence of factors could lead to its being stalled once again.
For one, there are conflict of interest issues, given Jared Kushner’s new role as senior advisor to the president. Though Kushner stepped down as CEO of his family’s eponymous firm to assume his role in the Trump administration, the deal with Anbang could prompt federal probing; there’s also the concern that he “might be overly influenced by Anbang if the company helps his family turn a so-so deal into a bonanza,” per the WSJ.
But there’s another wrinkle in the plan: Anbang’s role in the project isn’t actually confirmed. Though sources told the WSJ that the firm is in “advanced talks” with the Kushner clan, an Anbang spokesperson said they “[have] no investment in 666 Fifth Avenue. Any suggestion that Anbang has signed a contract or made any kind of financial commitment is inaccurate.”
But if the deal with Anbang doesn’t materialize, Kushner Companies seems to think it could move forward anyway; sources with knowledge of the deal told the WSJ that equity could be raised from other investors.
In the event that the building moves forward, its new 1,400-square-foot height would be achieved by taking the structure down to its inner steel core and adding 40 floors. Zaha Hadid Architects, which has been attached to the project since 2015, has created a rendering of what that might look like—we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Assuming all goes according to plan, the building would be home to ultra-luxury condos (going for as much as $6,000 per square foot), along with a hotel and nearly 500,000 square feet of retail. (That’s another issue—Kushner would need to take over the retail leases from Vornado, which currently holds them.) Per the WSJ, demo work could begin in 2019, and the whole shebang would be done in 2025—assuming, of course, that everything comes together as Kushner is hoping. That, of course, remains to be seen.