Dalian Wanda’s story in the last year has been a cascade of woe as the one-time world-beating investor has sold off projects in the UK, Australia and China due to a mix of regulatory and financial pressures.
However, a recently revealed set of plans from less than four years ago shows what would have been one of the Chinese real estate companies biggest investments in a world-leading real estate market – a $1 billion Kohn Pederson Fox designed skyscraper near Manhattan’s World Trade Center site.
Wanda Had Plans for Former Deutsche Bank Site
With an eye toward building a global luxury hotel chain, Wanda boss Wang Jianlin announced in June 2013 that his mainland property conglomerate would build a $1 billion five-star hotel in New York. Wang’s plans for the Big Apple were announced during the same month that Wanda revealed its purchase of a site in London for a $1.1 billion hotel and residential complex there, and less than one year after the mainland firm had bought US theatre chain AMC for $2.6 billion.
Wanda’s site for its NYC dream tower, according to an account in New York property website newyorkyimby.com, was the former Deutsche Bank building location, which was demolished after the commercial building was damaged in the September 11th attacks. The site now known as 5 World Trade Center remains vacant amid the redevelopment of lower Manhattan’s business district.
KPF Sketched Out a 1050 Foot Tower in Lower Manhattan
Although Wanda never closed on its planned acquisition of the New York site, the developer was confident enough of its prospects in the US at the time to commission a design for a 1,050 foot tower split between 240 hotel rooms, a department store and condominiums.
Kohn Pedersen Fox, which also designed Wanda’s One Nine Elms project in London, had sketched out a seven story atrium for Wang Jianlin’s first real estate foothold in the US. The 1.4 million square foot project would have provided 350,000 square feet of hotel space, 200,000 square feet of retail and 850,000 square feet of residential.
In what was perhaps a signal of frustrations with the New York project, Wang complained at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2014 that, “If we compare [the United States and the European Union], the U.S. is more open than the EU,” he said. “But the U.K. is the most open,” according to an account by CNN.
Wanda Sells Off US Projects
Despite Wang’s US whining, Wanda went on to sign deals for projects in Chicago and Los Angeles. Those investments, like most of Wanda’s overseas projects now are either extinct or on the endangered list.
In January Wanda sold off for an undisclosed sum a pair of projects in Australia that it had once valued at $1.5 billion. That Aussie disposal came just one week after the Chinese developer had sold the site for its $1.1 billion One Nine Elms project for $82 million.
Wang’s Hollywood dreams also took a flurry of blows last year with a planned deal for a TV production company first running aground, before the company’s partner in movie studio Legendary Entertainment left the company. In October, Wanda’s US partner in its Los Angeles real estate project bailed out on the One Beverly Hills luxury condo-and-hotel complex, just before apartment sales were set to begin.
Wanda maintains an investment in the Wanda Vista Tower in Chicago, although media reports have suggested that the 94 story project is also on the market. And Wang Jianlin’s plans for a global hotel chain are as vacant as his would-be New York site, after Wanda sold 77 of its domestic hospitality assets to Guangzhou R&F last year for RMB 19.9 billion (then $2.9 billion).