By  on March 4, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- Barneys New York plans to shake up the city Saturday when it opens the doors to its new store on Wilshire Boulevard.

The launch is expected to trigger a costly battle along the Wilshire retail corridor -- a half-mile row that already has Neiman Marcus, I. Magnin and Saks Fifth Avenue.

At a time when Barneys' finances have been under scrutiny because of late payments to vendors, the store has poured more than $50 million into the new unit.

Robert Pressman, co-president, predicted the store would ring up as much as $70 million in sales during its first year, a hefty volume considering that the building contains only about 100,000 square feet of selling space. This would dwarf Saks Fifth Avenue at $38 million and I. Magnin at $50 million. Only Neiman Marcus, which does about $90 million annually, would outpace Barneys.

But critics and competitors -- often one and the same -- have questioned whether a store so ingrained with a New York mentality can succeed in Beverly Hills. But one look at the store seems to answer that criticism.

With a light, open interior, a majestic winding staircase and sunlight flowing in through an atrium and the many windows, Barneys may be more Los Angeles than many nearby stores that claim the city as their own. A restaurant on top of the five-story structure will open up to the outside, where tables offer a view of Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles.

"We built a store that both visually and in product is geared to the Southern California market and at the same time blends in the spirit of New York," said Pressman. Architect Peter Marino, who designed the store, said, "Every floor is wide open, and windows give customers framed views of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. When you look up through the atrium, there's always blue sky."

Other unusual features: large aquariums with exotic fish on several floors, a marble frieze designed by Ruben Toledo featuring mosaic portraits inspired by Isabel Toledo - his wife - and French limestone floors in the women's designer area. Fixtures are contemporary and made of materials such as gunmetal and polished nickel.

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