The RH Gallery by CityPlace

A mixed-use mall? An urban nexus?

CityPlace in West Palm Beach, Fla., once considered a lifestyle center, is undergoing a “reimagining” that puts the 75-acre, 17-year-old project into a classification difficult to define.

“With so much happening in this area, now is a great time to pivot CityPlace from a lifestyle center or outdoor mall into an exciting urban district, infused with arts and culture, great experiential retailing, food and beverage, and great architecture tied to a sense of community and a sense of place,” said Gopal Rajegowda, senior vice president of Related Companies, owner and developer of CityPlace.

“It will all be happening over the next five years,” Rajegowda told WWD.

The reimagination took a step forward on Saturday with the opening of the “Culture Lab” on the site of a former 110,000-square-foot, circular-shaped Macy’s Inc. that was once considered a prototype due to its smaller, unorthodox configuration and very edited assortment. In some cases, Macy’s is selling off unproductive real estate which is being converted to other uses.

The Culture Lab at CityPlace. 

Rajegowda described the Culture Lab as “an immersive arts experience” with interactive installations; educational programming; a sound installation titled “You Are the Magic,” by sound designer Stephen Vitiello; a large mural created by artist Michael Craig-Martin on the exterior called “Palm Beach Parade,” and another mural created by Tokyo-based Frankie Cihi called “Hybrid Infinity” with colorful geometric patterns on the façade of the parking garage.

Next year, the CityPlace reimagination evolves further with the opening of “The Magic Garden” for food activations.

Already opened is a 3,400-square-foot pop-up selling Casper mattresses. It’s a brick-and-mortar test by Casper, which is fundamentally an online service for quick delivery of mattresses that come in a box and readily unfold when you open it.

There is also a Capital One Café with roving assistants rather than traditional bank tellers, and a cafe. It’s an attempt to appeal to younger generations by transforming the banking experience.

Last month an 80,000-square-foot RH Gallery store, one of the few Restoration Hardware design galleries operating, opened across the street from CityPlace proper. The mansionlike store has four floors of furnishings, a rooftop restaurant by Brendan Sodikoff with wine vaults, an espresso bar and tasting rooms, and a public art installation by Los Angeles-based artist RETNA. The new format replaced the 12,000-square-foot Restoration Hardware in CityPlace. It might be chopped up to house two 6,000-square-foot retailers, or one larger retailer.

The RH design gallery is “luxuriously built out and has more room to explain the breadth of merchandise,” said Rajegowda. Related owns the new Restoration Hardware building and the land underneath. “I don’t think anything gets more experiential,” said Rajegowda, of the RH gallery. “People want to stay for hours, not only to see the products but maybe to grab a glass of wine or watch the sunset.”

The new experiential Restoration Hardware at CityPlace. 

Since the opening of the Restoration Hardware gallery, “We’ve been getting a lot inquiries of home furnishings brands from inside and outside the U.S.,” said Rajegowda. “Design and home furnishings is a category we are going to build up. Another component is food and beverage, and new forms of entertainment. We have a large AMC movie theater we might renovate into a luxury movie theater with food and beverage.” Internet-oriented and technology companies are being eyed as well.

“Right now, there is probably 100,000 square feet we would like to re-lease out,” said Rajegowda. CityPlace has 660,000 square feet, including the 110,000-square-foot Culture Lab. Some other key tenants are Anthropologie, H&M, Sephora, Bang & Olufsen, Natuzzi, The Shade Store, Lucky Brand Jeans and The Regional Kitchen and Public House.

Changes to CityPlace seem synergistic with the greater area, which has several cultural institutions, including the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and Related’s Harriet Himmel Theater, a former church restored for concerts, banquets and other events. They are adjacent to CityPlace. Nearby, there’s the Dreyfus School of the Arts and the Norton Museum of Art, which is undergoing a $100 million renovation.

In the years since opening of CityPlace, Related has been building around the project, adding “density” to the area, including constructing the 300,000-square-foot City Place Tower, and the Hilton West Palm Hotel.

CityPlace will get another lift with the soon-to-be-opened Brightline high-speed rail system connecting Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and in a second phase of construction, Orlando.

Related has been cultivating a strategy of layering in culture, hospitality and entertainment experiences to retail settings, to generate greater traffic and compete aggressively against Internet shopping. It’s evident at The Shops at Columbus Circle urban mall in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, and at Hudson Yards, the massive mixed-use development under construction on Manhattan’s West Side. Hudson Yards will fuse retail, food, entertainment, offices, hotel, residential, public park space and the latest technologies with the goal of creating a new neighborhood and destination for tourists and area workers and residents.

While CityPlace’s reimagining does to some degree entail seeking new stores to update the mix, the area isn’t lacking in retail. “There may be some saturation on the outskirts, but certainly not within downtown,” said Rajegowda. “We want more retailers to come in and we want people to experience this district for more reasons other than shopping.”