Gregory Bull  /  AP
People gather in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York in this December 2004 file photo. The famous hotel with a Central Park view and a history of celebrity will close by April 30 for major renovations.
updated 4/14/2005 8:32:13 PM ET 2005-04-15T00:32:13

The Plaza Hotel, a Fifth Avenue landmark and luxurious host to kings and queens, presidents and stars for nearly a century, will soon close to be transformed into fancy apartments, stores and a scaled-down hotel operation.

The 805-room Midtown hotel with views of Central Park will shut its doors April 30 and reopen late next year with about 150 hotel rooms, 200 condominiums and new retail space.

Miki Naftali, the president and chief of Plaza owner Elad Properties, made the announcement Wednesday, declining to disclose how much the renovations will cost. Elad bought the gleaming behemoth last summer for $675 million.

Naftali said it would have been more profitable to convert the entire building into condos but the company “wanted to keep the integrity of the space.”

“The Plaza is unique not only in the location and the fabulous exterior, but there are some fabulous interior spaces with so much history, and we wanted to maintain those spaces,” he said.

Oak Room stays put
The Plaza’s most famous restaurants, including the Oak Room, will remain largely unchanged and will reopen in 2006, but they could have new names and menus. A huge ballroom will also survive.

The condos will be built on the top 12 floors of the 19-story Plaza, as well as some of the lower floors, Naftali said.

Kings and presidents, screen stars and sports figures, all frequented the Plaza. Oak Bar bartender Jose Mejia smiled as he recently described the night the Yankees had a party hours after winning the World Series in 2000.

“I’ve made cocktails for a lot of important people from around the world in this place,” he said.

Hemingway's advice
Ernest Hemingway once advised F. Scott Fitzgerald to give his liver to Princeton and his heart to the Plaza, according to the company’s Web site.

The Plaza’s exterior was named a city landmark in 1969 and listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1986, but the interior never received landmark status, leaving Naftali relatively free to complete his renovations.

Nevertheless, city Landmarks Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney said his office would review Elad’s plans for the Plaza.

“Any time there’s work being done, we want to be sure that the people doing the work understand the importance and the history of the building, and in this case we feel they do,” Tierney said.

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