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'Trump slump' in property value sees push by condo owners to dump his name

Average price per square foot in Trump-named building fell 29% between its peak in 2015 and 2018

New York

FOR over two decades, the Trump International Hotel and Tower has soared over Central Park, a crown jewel of US President Donald Trump's family business that features luxury hotel rooms and exclusive private residences just off Columbus Circle.

In true Trump fashion, the hotel and tower are branded with the Trump name on three hard-to-miss signs.

But this autumn, the Trump Organization is expected to overhaul the signage, reflecting in part the strains the Trump presidency has placed on the family's brand in Mr Trump's ever-hostile hometown.

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As part of a broader renovation of the property, the company is considering a proposal that would change the signage so that the Trump name is no longer directly associated with the private residences, according to sources with knowledge of the proposal.

Instead, the skyscraper's premier Manhattan address - One Central Park West - would get top billing for the residences, while the Trumps would continue to manage the property and keep their name on signs for the hotel.

The proposal is a compromise, offered over the summer by the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, to head off demands from some owners that the building lose its Trump branding entirely.

If, as expected, the proposal is approved by the building's condominium board, the Trumps will be spared an embarrassing fight at their flagship hotel just as the 2020 presidential election season hits full swing after the Sept 2 Labor Day holiday.

Although the building is not a major moneymaker for the Trumps - their company manages the property and owns some portions of it, but there are hundreds of individual unit owners - it has long held symbolic importance to the president.

It was the first hotel to bear his name (and now the only one left in New York), and even as "Trump" has disappeared from other buildings in New York and elsewhere, this signature property was considered untouchable.

That changed after a contentious meeting in June between the condo board and several dozen owners, some of whom complained that the Trump name had been a drag on the property ever since Mr Trump announced his bid for the presidency four years ago.

In heavily Democratic New York, Mr Trump's politics most likely contributed to the discord, which had surfaced in the past as well.

But in June, some owners suggested that the polarising nature of the Trump name was depressing the value of their investments in the building.

With sales of units in the building slowing in recent years, some owners called for stripping the T-R-U-M-P letters from the property's signage altogether and renaming the property One Central Park West.

The compromise plan from Mr Trump Jr would most likely remove the block-lettered "Trump International Hotel and Tower" sign above the building's shiny entrance and replace it with signage that draws a clear distinction between the hotel and the tower.

That would involve elevating the presence of the One Central Park West address, which currently appears in much smaller lettering than the Trump name elsewhere on the property.

The two other existing Trump signs, both at street level, would also be modified to reflect the branding change, although the details of that modification are unclear.

Mr Trump's run for the presidency also coincided with a slowdown in sales in the building. In the two years after he announced his candidacy in 2015, half as many apartments and hotel rooms sold than in the prior two-year period, according to data from PropertyShark.

Since Mr Trump took office in January 2017, the price of units sold in the Trump building has dropped an average of 23 per cent compared with similar units sold in the same building during his campaign.

That decline has been much steeper than experienced in the wider Manhattan condo market, according to an independent analysis of the data. An analysis of residential-only sales conducted by CityRealty, the real estate listings website, showed that the average price per square foot in the Trump building fell 29 per cent between its peak in 2015 and 2018. NYTIMES