Mandarin Oriental To Open In Columbus Centre

NEW YORK? Mandarin Oriental International Ltd. will raise a $200 million flagship property here as part of a joint-venture agreement that will make it the hotel component of Columbus Centre, a $1.6 billion mixed-use development fronting Manhattan?s Central Park. The Hong Kong-based hotel group will manage the 244-room luxury hotel?its first in The Big Apple? and own 50% of the property at an estimated $50 million investment. Partners in the joint venture include The Related Companies LP, a real estate firm that specializes in development, financial services and property management, and Apollo Real Estate Advisors LP, which has a range of direct equity and debt investments in real estate assets, operating companies and joint ventures. The high-profile development project will be situated on the site of the New York Coliseum, which surrounds a traffic circle at the southwest corner of Central Park at 59th St. Demolition of the Coliseum, vacated Nov. 1, is scheduled to begin later this year. ?This deal has been in discussion for years,? said Michael Shindler, vp/development for Mandarin Oriental. ?It?s consistent with the strategy we?ve always had, to be in major gateway cities of the world. This is one hell of a step in the most important of those cities, simply because this development? 2.7 million square feet? is likely to be the Rockefeller Center of the next generation.? The hotel group currently has U.S. properties open in San Francisco and Hawaii, and a third under construction in Miami on Brickell Key. Shindler said the company is in a process of diversifying away from a strictly Asian-based income stream, which is driven by its concentration of five-star properties in the Asia-Pacific region. ?Mandarin Oriental is one of the few global deluxe lodging companies and the addition of a New York property is one of the most important strategic additions it could have made to its portfolio,? said Bjorn Hanson, who heads PricewaterhouseCoopers? hospitality and leisure group. ?It will create visibility in the United States where thebrand is not well appreciated for being one of the finest five-star lodging brands. It?s a great move and a great opportunity.? Since each of Mandarin Oriental?s properties boasts a unique design that seeks to reflect its location, the hotel in the Columbus Centre project will not be an exception. Indeed, guests coming to the property, scheduled to open in 2003, literally will be able to make a dramatic entrance. After being greeted at a ground-level reception desk, guests will travel by elevator to the first floor of the hotel?s public space, which will be located more than 250 feet above street level, where 18-foot windows will provide a broad sweep of Central Park and its environs. The hotel will be located in one of two towers, adjoining residential and office space. Meeting Space, Ballroom A full-service spa, health club, signature restaurant, lobby lounge and cocktail bar are other planned features. Meeting space will accommodate up to 750 persons; a 5,500-square-foot ballroom will overlook the park. Additionally, Mandarin Oriental expects to provide services to the 225 residential apartments that will be a part of Columbus Centre. Shindler noted there probably would not be ?an enormous amount of lead time? on any one component of the project, although he did not know which piece of the project would be finished first. ?We?ll open in late 2003, with our first full year being 2004,? he said. Right now, Shindler said there?s debt financing to be done, ?which [at presstime]hasn?t gone forward yet; we?re still way early in the process.? He noted, ?Related and Apollo are continuing as our partners in the hotel development and putting cash into it. That is a vote of confidence.? The vp added Mandarin Oriental had looked at other potential sites, but ?this was the top one on our list. Now, we?re finished and the commitments have been made. Now, we?ll focus to see if there?s anything on the East