The fate of the lumbering behemoth known as Macy's in Brooklyn has been decided, and while the store will stay put, it will be both shrunken and dramatically overhauled.
Over the past couple of years, the Shophound has been following the state of the huge and historic but woefully out of date Macy's store in Downtown Brooklyn. The centerpiece of a renewed Fulton Street shopping corridor, the enormous nine-floor store is one of the largest in the chain, but has failed to keep up with both the newer influx of retailers to the area and the increasingly affluent population inhabiting the Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods that are literally in its backyard. About a year ago, Macy's officials announced a long overdue renovation for the neglected store, which began its life in 1865 as the Abraham & Straus flagship, that would renovate it from top to bottom. Surprisingly, the plan was put on hold a scant few weeks later as the store began to explore other real estate options for the valuable site including a possible sale or redevelopment of the building and a move to a smaller site nearby. The newly updated plan will include a combination of several options. Yesterday, Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren revealed a scheme that will shrink the floor from its current nine floors to the first four levels plus the basement. The upper floors will be sold to real estate developer Tishman Speyer for $170 million who will also cover the costs of the renovation below with another $100 million over the next three years.
While it sounds like the store will be substantially reduced in size, it will actually only go from 378,000 square feet of selling space on nine floors to 310,000 square feet on five. Upgrades are said to include uncovering windows to allow more light as well as renovated bathrooms, escalators and elevators along with a general refurbishment of the of the space. A walk through the store today would reveal an ungainly patchwork of poorly sequenced departments as well as an ill advised mezzanine level on half of the main floor that creates cramped shopping spaces and obscures parts of the building's original architecture. However, a closer look reveals striking Art Deco architectural details like a lavishly decorated bank of elevators at the store's center (pictured below) and carved marble frieze work framing the main entrances on Fulton and Livingston Streets (pictured above). Ultimately, it will be a few years before we see the results of the renovation, but given the store's rapidly gentrifying locale, the opportunity for a freshly made-over Macy's in Brooklyn to do big business is huge.
While we don't yet know what will ultimately become of the FAO Schwarz retail space in the GM Building after the iconic toy store moves out on July 15th, we now know that the next immediate tenant will be the Apple Store which is reportedly taking over the place while its main flagship store underneath the plaza in front of the building undergoes an extensive renovation. The news was disclosed by Apple retail chief, senior vice president Angela Ahrendts to the Associated Press in an interview promoting the company's newest outlet set to open tomorrow on Madison Avenue. Though that new store will contain the company's signature minimalist wooden tables and fixtures, the building around it is reported to be a meticulous restoration of the former U.S. Mortgage & Trust building which will include chandeliers re-produced from vintage photographs and the original vault converted into a private shopping area —fitting for the store located in the neighborhood most conducive for selling the pricey golden AppleWatch Edition.
But back to Fifth Avenue. The famous store with the "cube" is included among the roughly 20 U.S. Apple Stores set for major renovation as they have outgrown their spaces since the introduction of the iPhone and other new products that have transformed the company's offerings. Exactly when the Fifth Avenue store's renovation will begin or how long it will take is unclear, though it is likely to start as soon as the FAO Schwarz space can be converted to Apple's temporary requirements. When that happens, the GM Building's Fifth Avenue retail spaces will be entirely devoted to temporary stores with Cartier on the northern corner, waiting for its own flagship a few blocks downtown to finish its extensive revamp, and Apple on the southern side. While the famous "cube" entrance is expected to remain, it sounds like the rest of the store will be dramatically updated. Whether or not the temporary store will maintain the flagship's 24-hour schedule is also unknown at the moment, but Apple is uniquely fortunate to be able to take over a large high profile location only steps away so it can continue doing business at it's highest volume retail outlet without any interruption.
We knew this would be happening at some point, but the big Saint Laurent flagship store on east 57th Street is finally about to get the full Hedi Slimane treatment. Now that the SoHo store and three in-store shops at Saks and Bergdorf's (Men's and Women's) have been fully Slimane-ified, they are, apparently, finally getting around to bringing the boutique at 3 East 57th Street up to aesthetic code and having the official store design installed. Regular customers won't have too much trouble finding Saint Laurent's temporary home. It's just on the other side of Fifth Avenue at 3 West 57th Street (above), in the same place that so many other Midtown boutiques (Coach, Chanel, Burberry etc.) have used during their own renovations, but before Saint Laurent moves in, it needs its own sprucing up before it will be suitable to house the super-persnickety designer's collections.
Of course, the least interesting part of this whole scenario is how the permanent Saint Laurent store will look after its makeover. We can pretty much picture it right now, because all Saint Laurent retail spaces look exactly the same now, just as if they were Starbucks or 7-Elevens. We can safely predict that there will be lots of white and black marble with glass and chrome, and probably some boxy, minimalistic black leather upholstered furniture. We like to think that maybe they will surprise us with some unique design touches, but we aren't holding our breath.
Almost a year ago to the day, The Shophound took a jaunt down to a store we would ordinarily not have gone out of our way to visit, the Macy's flagship store in Brooklyn (pictured above).We were curious to compare state of the city's other sizable Macy's to the lavish renovations that were happening in the mother ship at Herald Square. What we found was a dingy mess of a store, but one that inhabited a historic Art Deco structure that still had some elegant bones that could have been unearthed and polished. The potential for a thoughtful, transformative renovation was high, especially since the store was well situated on a resurgent Fulton Mall and only blocks a way from Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens —what is now one of the borough's most affluent areas. About six months later, Macy's announced that indeed they were planning to refurbish the Brooklyn store to take advantage of those very things, but now WWD is reporting that the planned renovations are on hold, and may never happen. In fact, real estate in that section of Brooklyn is now so valuable ($300 - $400 per square foot) that Macys could stand to make $300 million by selling the historic building at 422 Fulton Street, demolishing it and redeveloping the site to include a new residential tower which would feature a smaller, more productive brance of Macy's on its first few floors, not unlike the the Nordstrom tower currently under construction in Manhattan. No officials from either Macy's or potential developing partners had any comments for WWD, but its sources point out that the existing building, which was originally the Abraham & Straus flagship before it was absorbed into the Macy's chain in the 1990s, is actually a combination of a few buildings with inconsistent floor plates and levels that don't line up easily from floor to floor. A proper renovation would likely be extra costly even by New York retail standards, so the idea of having a more efficient, newly built store that was "right sized" for the neighborhood would be very attractive to practical minded Macy's executives.
Of course, there is also potential in revitalizing a historic building. In its current, dingy state, Macy's Brooklyn is not attractive to the upscale communities in its backyard, but a real re-imagining of the store could unlock a valuable customer base nearby that could justify the store's large size, particularly in kitchen, bed, bath and other home goods departments that aren's as well represented in the area. That would be a nice thing for fans of historic department stores to imagine, but given the current manic character of New York real estate development and its insatiable appetite for glittering luxury towers, the demolition option seems more likely at the moment. While no firm announcements about the store's future have been made, anyone with any affection for the city's grand, old retail palaces —even the ones which aren't terribly well maintained— may want to take a visit to Macy's Brooklyn flagship. it may not be there for much longer.
Macy's Rethinking Brooklyn Unit's Future (WWD)
What Does The Macy's Renovation Mean For The Rest Of The Chain? (7.17.2013)
Macy's Plans An Overhaul For Brooklyn (1.24.2014)
Restaurant bloggers were abuzz earlier this year when Keith McNally announced that his scene-making Meatpacking District bistro Pastis would be closing earlier this year to accommodate renovations to the 19th Century stable building it has lived in since 1999. He has promised that it will reopen in the same place once the renovations are complete, but the city's foodies have been skeptical amid rumors that the restaurant would move to other possible locations including the Beekman Hotel or the space which P.J.Clarke's currently occupies in Brookfield Place (which comes with its own contentious story of tenant-landlord discord). McNally has remained steadfast, but DNAinfo is now reporting that Restoration Hardware has filed a 'Memorandum of Lease' document with the city indicating that it plans to take over the entire building at 9-19 Ninth Avenue once a modern steel and glass two-story addition on the roof is completed (pictured in the rendering above). Normally, this would be a lot of space for Restoration Hardware, but the home furnishings chain has recently disclosed plans for big flagship stores in major cities that include more of a lifestyle point of view that could include its own restaurants or even a hotel. The long standing Flatiron district location has just added two more floors and redubbed itself RH New York, The Gallery in the Historic Flatiron District featuring a broader assortment and expanded decorating services. Could the same thing be headed across town to the Meatpacking District? The building's landlord is not confirming that any tenant has been signed for the renovated building throwing both McNally's and Restoration Hardware's plans into question. Considering that the rooftop addition could take a while, we might not know what the full plans are for the building anytime soon, but we will be watching for more developments.
After a few weeks of rumors that it was shutting down for good, J&R has indeed closed the doors of its multi-level electronics superstore, promising that it would return to its familiar Park Row location when the site had been redeveloped in 2015. Over the past several months, J&R has been systematically vacating the various stores along the street that held its photography, music and housewares stores, and now the main electronics location closes today. What may be raising a few eyebrows is that the retailer has apparently chosen not to open an alternate, temporary location to maintain its business during the redevelopment, though it will continue to sell merchandise through its online store. The six-story building will be reclad in glass, and presumably reopen with the electronics retailer inside. In a letter to customers published on the store website J&R's owners call the proposed remodel (rendering pictured at left) an "unprecedented retailing concept and social mecca", with more details to be announced.
Park Row Redevelopment (J&R Official Site)
Last Saturday, Cartier shut down its storied Fifth Avenue Flagship for extensive renovations expected to last for two years including an entirely new main floor, enlargement of the penthouse, a dramatic new staircase and Fifth Avenue façade as well as a major overhaul and upgrade of its heating, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning systems. To take its place, the jeweler has taken over part of the GM building previously occupied by the CBS Morning Show, which has spent nearly a year undergoing its own renovation to create a suitable space for an Haute Joaillierie. The "temporary" store is expected to open next week, with the exact time frame for the moving of merchandise a closely guarded secret for obvious security reasons, but an article in The New York Times suggests that the jeweler may hang on to the space even after the flagship reopens. At 8,000 square feet, it will be the jeweler's biggest, even larger than the heritage store at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. It will boast extravagant 22 foot ceilings, and textured glass window treatments are already visible at the location. The interior is being created by the same team that designs Cartier's stores worldwide, so it seems that few expenses have been spared, and Emmanuel Perrin, president and CEO of Cartier International tells the Times that “it absolutely could become permanent.” That leaves us with the question of why the jewelry and watchmaker would need a second, permanent flagship sized store only 7 blocks from its original one, especially with another location over on Madison Avenue?
Location, location, location —as we have said before. While the ornate Italian Renaissance style mansion that has housed Cartier's main store for a decades is as hushed and elegant as one would expect a world class jeweler to be, it is a bit intimidating, with most passerby content to gawk at the opulent jewels in the windows without actually entering the store. By contrast, competitor Tiffany & Co.'s marble showplace at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue has remained a popular tourist destination, and with another, more modern feeling store just steps from FAO Schwarz and the Apple Store, which are two of the most visited retail establishments in the city, Cartier will be well positioned to capture a customer who may not have been comfortable wandering into the main flagship. Of course, the Times notes that Cartier's parent company Richemont could also convert the space for another of its luxury brands which include Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget and Montblanc, but it looks likely that New York will wind up with two Cartier flagships by the time they are finished.
About six months ago, as Macy's was unveiling dramatic renovations to its immense Herald Square flagship, The Shophound took a jaunt over to Downtown Brooklyn to compare the improvements in Manhattan to the state of one of the chains other large, historic stores on Fulton Street (pictured above). We spent some time wandering the floors, noting the building's physical condition as well as its merchandising layout and reported back. It turns out that even as they lavished improvements on their cash cow on 34th Street, Macy's execs have taken a critical look at the big Brooklyn store as well. We wouldn't want to presume that The Shophound had anything to do with this happening, but, well, why not? After all, we both came to the same basic conclusion:
Macy's on Fulton street is a dump.
But not for long. Today's WWD reports that there are big plans to upgrade the building which has been a department store since 1883 when it became the flagship for Abraham & Straus, a local chain that Macy's took over in 1995. As we noted last year, little in the store has been updated since then, though it still includes original Art Deco design elements like a rotunda and a striking elevator bay that will hopefully be preserved. Macy's executives have big plans for the building which will likely become a template for renovations in the chain's many other urban flagships —They're just not exactly sure yet what those plans will be, specifically. “Brooklyn is a fantastic market,” Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, CEO and president of Macy’s Inc., tells WWD. “We are just waiting to figure out the right way to approach the Brooklyn store.” Lundgren notes that as in many department store flagships that date back to the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the current layout actually consists of more than one building cobbled together resulting in complicated floor plates that pose challenges when it comes time for major renovations, so it could be some time before they figure out how to approach the changes to be made.
While there is no specific plan or time frame for the store's renovation yet, Macy's is promising more than just cosmetic improvements for the ever more decrepit store. What is in the works is expected to be a total overhaul of the entire merchandising concept in Brooklyn to serve the rapidly changing market there as well as in other cities whose downtown neighborhoods are undergoing renewal. In recent years, Downtown Brooklyn has attracted new branches from major chains like H&M a few steps away from Macy's as well as Sephora, A|X and Uniqlo. Nordstrom Rack is coming to Fulton Street and Neiman Marcus Last Call has just announced an upcoming store in the Brooklyn Municipal Building. With such competition moving in, as well as continuing gentrification in nearby neighborhoods like Cobble Hill and Carroll gardens, It would have been irresponsible from a business standpoint for Macy's to continue operating one of the biggest stores in the chain in such an outmoded condition. As we noted last July, the renovations that are turning Macy's Herald Square into an upscale palace for luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, are making parts of the rest of the chain look like a totally different company in contrast. With a new concept for the Brooklyn store, not only will Macy's show that they care about more than the famous Herald Square flagship, but it might just turn around some customers who had long ago written off the store as an irrelevant mess.
It has been several months since Club Monaco's customers on Lower Fifth Avenue have been directed around the corner to a disused Daffy's, but that inconvenience is now ended. This morning, regular customers were alerted that the chain's main flagship and first New York location at Fifth Avenue and 21st Street is now once again open for business, but once inside, you would hardly recognize it. Even before we walked inside, we noticed a decorative wrought-iron grille restored above the front door flanked by opulent floral arrangements and new awnings. What was originally a stripped down and slightly generic, modernistic retail decor has been transformed into a grand residential interior in keeping with 120-year-old Gilded Age building it occupies. Originally started in Canada by Joe Mimran and Alfred Sung, Club Monaco was acquired by Ralph Lauren in 1999, and the question many had at the time was whether the designer could own a trend driven brand without ultimately bending it to his own, very specific aesthetic style? The most striking thing about the re-imagined Club Monaco flagship is how very easily it could serve as a Ralph Lauren store. It might feel somewhat disappointing on a purely cynical level if it weren't so impeccably executed. Parquet floors, elaborate moldings and imposing columns give the store a lavish Beaux Arts ambiance. The once open space is now divided into interconnected rooms (another Lauren hallmark), but an expansion adds square feet for new extra features like a florist counter, and a bookshop courtesy of The Strand. A coffee bar with its own entrance is still under construction.
Downstairs, the men's department has been similarly transformed with marble floors and a much darker palette, because darkness means men's clothes in the Ralph Lauren world. Again the interconnected rooms feel more spacious, and offer better settings for a shoe section featuring Grenson, Mark McNairy and Rancourt, as well as a special Made in the USA line of suiting. A couple of years ago, The Shophound took Club Monaco to task for a new men's strategy that seemed blatantly lifted from competitor J.Crew in its focus on preppy classics and carefully curated third party brands brought in to add prestige and round out offerings. Over the past seasons, however, the chain has developed a more individual men's fashion image with more quirk and modernistic touches. The women's offerings, oddly enough have not developed as clear of a point of view. What originally arrived in New York in the late '90s as a source for high fashion trends at a price now seems blandly middle-of-the-road in its women's offerings, which could use a bit more of the zing that is livening up the lower level of the store. Currently the effect is of two entirely different companies which just happen to occupy the same store. Perhaps that will change in the future. What Club Monaco is showing off right now is a dramatically transformed environment, which may suggest what shoppers will be able to expect when its new SoHo stores are unveiled, although replicating the sumptuous design in this particular store may be too costly to roll out to every store in the chain. Check out more views of the store in out gallery below, and even if you don't think of yourself as Club Monaco fan, it's worth a look in person just to appreciate the store's impressive transformation.
Club Monaco 160 Fifth Avenue, Flatiron District
Opening Ceremony Launched COS Last Friday, But The Real News
Was A Brand New Men's Floor
Was A Brand New Men's Floor
In all the excitement over Opening Ceremony's exclusive U.S. preview of H&M's upscale brand COS, nobody seemed to notice that the ever-evolving retailer had added an entire new men's floor to the mazelike complex that serves as its flagship store on Howard Street. In an unusual, and particularly OC-ish move, the new floor is actually the street level of the building that houses the men's departments, most recently used for the store's sample and clearance sale, now remodeled and permanently open with its own entrance and a new passage through to the original store. Inside, the space is set up with long racks on each side and a series of arched, cagelike fixtures (at left) in the center which are currently showcasing some of the store's brightest and loudest designers for men like Bernhard Wilhelm, Walter Van Beirendonck alongside mainstays like Raf Simons and Dries Van Noten, and the store's ever expanding private label collection. Of course, this being Opening Ceremony, it's still a workout to get around the whole store. The second and third levels are still only accessible by a bunch of stairs, but the configuration leaves the store in a configuration somewhat reminiscent of the old Barneys on 17th Street with separate, self contained men's and women's stores side by side.
An as for COS, seen in person, it lived up nicely to its advance hype. Presented in a single, four sided gazebo-like structure (pictured below), the capsule selections for men and women had a sleek, minimalist yet accessible vibe that reminded us how much we missed Uniqlo's +J collections from Jil Sander. The prices seemed quite reasonable for the quality we saw, falling in roughly the same range as J.Crew, and while we were there on Friday afternoon, shoppers were snapping it up. There still seems to be a reasonable selection online, but we don't expect it to last terribly long, so act fast if you are intrigued, or wait until next Spring, when the line arrives in its own store in SoHo.
Opening Ceremony Men's Store 33 Howard Street
COS at Opening Ceremony 35 Howard Street between Crosby Street & Broadway, SoHo
Launchpad: Opening Ceremony To Launch H&M's COS In-Store & Online Next Week