It looks like the Kills is going to have to find a new spot to crash at after the band’s shows in New York next week—the city’s most famous and upscale artsy drug den, the Chelsea Hotel, has canceled all reservations in anticipation of renovations to the space. Negotiations to sell the hotel have been in progress since May, but the deal wasn’t finalized until Monday night, when Moroccan real estate mogul Joseph Chetrit closed on plans to purchase the hotel for $80 million. Chetrit, whom the New York Observer called “the most mysterious big shot in New York real estate,” has kept his intentions largely unknown, but architect Gene Kaufman told the Wall Street Journal that changes to the building will be “subtle.” Kaufman has been hired to oversee the project, adding the Chelsea Hotel to a prolific list of hotels on his resumé, including jobs with Holiday Inn and the Duane Hotel in TriBeCa.
The Chelsea Hotel closed its doors to guests for the first time in its 127-year history, but the 100 permanent residents of its halls are allowed to stay. Renovations to the lobby, plumbing, ventilation and electrical systems are said to take at least a year, so figure the construction will be over sometime in the next decade. Despite rumors that Chetrit plans to turn the hotel into condominiums, reports from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal assure the public that the hotel’s new owner has no intentions to make the building into anything other than an upgraded hotel. Apparently, the renovations won’t threaten the integrity and charm of the Chelsea Hotel, where artists and musicians like Janis Joplin, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith once roamed.
The hotel’s clientele has helped to build its allure and mythic role in pop culture history. Within its walls, Andy Warhol filmed Chelsea Girls and Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again, but no mention of the Chelsea Hotel and its fabled history is complete without the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and his famously obnoxious girlfriend Nancy Spungen, who was found stabbed to death in the first-floor room they inhabited in the 1970s. With luck, any and all changes to the building will preserve its rich history as a relatively ritzy heroin den for nostalgic punk rock fans and artists looking to soak up some of the creativity nurtured in its rooms.