The long shuttered Normandie Hotel, a national historic site and one of San Juan’s iconic buildings, may finally have a buyer.
Hector Aponte, business director of NAI Puerto Rico, one of two real estate firms handling the sale of the property, said that a stateside company has signed an option to purchase the hotel from its owner, New York-based Capmark Finance Inc.
The company, whose name was not identified, has 30 days to make good on the option, which, according to Aponte, was signed about two weeks ago. He said the closing would depend on the due-diligence process and the buyer’s success in securing financing for the transaction.
Once bought, the property will require extensive rebuilding due to its grave state of disrepair. It is unclear how big an investment will be required to bring the building back to its previous luster but Aponte said reconstruction would probably take a year.
The Normandie was put on the auction block in March with a starting bid of $1.8 million. Aponte said that some 18 companies vied for the property, with the field of potential buyers subsequently narrowed down to three companies. In selecting the winning bid, Capmark balanced other considerations in addition to the price offered, he said. Among these were the prospective buyer’s plans for the hotel property.
While he would not say how much the buyer offered to pay for the hotel, Aponte acknowledged that the amount is lower than what the property was expected to fetch. Earlier this year, media reports said the property might sell for $9 million.
Based in Puerta de Tierra, next door to the Caribe Hilton Hotel, the 173-room Normandie Hotel was built by Puerto Rican engineer Félix Benítez Rexach as a tribute to love. Architect Raul Reichard modeled its design on the SS Normandie, the liner on which Benítez Reach met his French wife. The hotel opened in 1942 and during its early days catered to Hollywood and Latin American film stars.
Despite its glamorous beginning, the hotel’s history has been a troubled one, peppered all along the way with shutterings and reopenings that climaxed in 2009 when its last operators, Caribbean Property Group, jumped ship after incurring heavy losses.
Since closing, the government has vainly sought to find a buyer for the property. More recently, the House Tourism Industry Development Committee passed a resolution to investigate the reasons why the property remains closed.
In March, two days before the hotel went on the auction block, committee Chairman Rep. Ángel Matos Garcia led a run-through of the property so that interested would-be investors could see for themselves the sorry state of the once glorious hotel.
In the event the selected buyer fails to meet the 30-day deadline, NAI’s Aponte said the property would once again be put up for sale. And given that three previous efforts to sell the hotel failed, he conceded that there is no guaranty this fourth attempt will succeed.