By  on August 13, 2007

MIAMI BEACH — Macy's is on a mission here.

Macy's Florida reopened its South Beach store at 1675 Meridian Avenue Saturday with great fanfare after a major seven-figure renovation and remerchandising in concurrence with its researched demographics. The store had been closed since March.

To hear Robert Unger, senior vice president of store design and visual presentation, describe the project's physical changes and modern retail strategies is exciting for a community that relies on one department store, and marks a definite departure from the division's 61 locations throughout Florida and Puerto Rico.

"The South Beach store is a unique entity. There is no prototype," he said of the 1953 freestanding building between Lincoln Road and the Miami Beach Convention Center that initially housed Burdines until Macy's folded the Florida chain into its fleet. "Our goal was to restore it back to the original, Fifties modern intent."

The layout alone is progressive, as Unger reports it's the company's smallest, two-story branch in Florida with approximately 90,000 square feet of selling space. The interior was gutted, save the elevator and expensive Sheetrock ceiling, rare by today's standards, according to Unger, sculpted on the first floor to replicate the Gulf Stream.

"The decoration was too important to demolish. It's by Raymond Loewy, a famous, midcentury industrial designer who created the store's interiors," said Unger.

The exterior was wholly restored to architect Robert Law Weed's design, such as reopening darkened windows along 17th Street for 30 percent more glass frontage; cleaning up the two-foot, stainless steel fascia; replacing hurricane shutters with hurricane glass to expose the formerly concealed canopy, and repainting in a historically accurate soft white. More novelties are its rosy marble facade and famous "Sunshine Fashions" sign in white neon.

"It's the only Macy's with the original Burdines marketing handle, which the city was very supportive in us keeping," said Unger.

The Fifties ode rolls on with midcentury-inspired, decorative accessories such as Sputnik chandeliers that line the widened main aisle; clusters of tropically colored, odd-shaped vases that top glass cases, and the odd prop, from tub chairs to Vespas to Loewy's framed, fanciful sketches. Unger looked to the Fifties' palette in choosing department hues such as ice pink for cosmetics, coral for women's ready-to-wear and parrot green for women's shoes.

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