NY Entrepreneur Has Big Plans for Puerto Rico’s Normandie Hotel

Puerto Rico - Normandie - Ishay

Image via capture.

By Mivette Vega

February 16, 2023

The new hotel owner wants to restore the splendor and beauty of the historic building, despite recommendations to demolish it.

Anyone who enters Old San Juan through the Isleta de San Juan will encounter the Normandie Hotel, an imposing Art Deco structure designated a historical heritage site in 1980.

Because of the architectural and historical value of the hotel, Puerto Rico Rep. Ángel Matos García sparked controversy when he introduced a measure to expropriate and demolish the building in March of 2021.

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The hotel, which is shaped like a ship, was one of the most luxurious in the region when it originally opened its doors in October of 1942. Throughout its history, it has had various owners, but it has been closed since 2009 and has since become a victim of vandalism.

The Normandie OZ LLC, belonging to The Ishay Group, a New York-based real estate firm, acquired the hotel for $8.6 million in January of 2022.

Despite advice from several engineers and experts to demolish the hotel, the company’s chief executive, Ezra “Eddie” Ishay, appreciates its value and fell in love with the building since he saw it for the first time.

“If it was about demolishing the building, I did not want any part of it. I wanted to see if there was anything we can do to preserve it. And we went through a few engineers, and many said that the building needed to be knocked down. But we are working with someone that has been very creative,” Ishay told Floricuas.

Ishay’s company will invest $100 million to restore and modernize the building, which was inspired by the French transatlantic SS Normandie.

The entrepreneur, who used to spend his childhood summers on the island with his family, wants to return the hotel to its original beauty and splendor.

The first five floors of the building will be restored, and the 6th and 7th floor will be rebuilt to their original design and integrity. 

One of the areas where some of the most important restoration work will be done is the Gold Room. In this grand room, the original owners, Puerto Rican engineer Félix Benítez Rexach and his wife, French singer Lucienne La Môme Moineau, welcomed many major Hollywood and Latin American film stars of the era.

In the ballroom there are still frescos, mosaics, tiles, and other pieces of art with Roman, Egyptian, and French Art Deco influences. Ishay hired an art restoration expert group called CenCOR to preserve as much of the original work as possible.

“They came in and spent a couple of months putting all the puzzle pieces together with all the molds, and making sure we put them into boxes and preserved them. So when we actually restore this floor, and rebuild it, we’ll have these pieces that will serve as the model for the restoration project. I’m really excited about bringing this space back,” Ishay said.

For the new owner, it is also important that the new version of the hotel be as sustainable and efficient as possible.

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The project also includes the renovation of the emblematic Sixto Escobar park. The investment of $20 million will include the reconstruction of the sports area and a parking lot that will be located under the soccer field and athletic track, and it will not affect the shoreline

The project is currently awaiting permits for reconstruction. It is expected to be completed in approximately two and a half years.



  • Mivette Vega

    Mivette Vega is a seasoned journalist and multimedia reporter whose stories center the Latino community. She is passionate about justice, equality, environmental matters, and animals. She is a Salvadorrican—Salvadorian that grew up in Puerto Rico—that has lived in San Juan, Venice, Italy, and Miami.



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