Situated at the foot of the Highline and with a towering wall display of 2,000 handbags just inside, it’s no wonder the new Coach headquarters at 10 Hudson Yards in Manhattan draws visitors into its lobby, not necessarily on any official business, but just as part of their urban excursion of the rapidly changing West Side.
“We love that people are enthusiastic to see Coach’s headquarters,” said Todd Kahn, Coach’s president and chief administrative officer. “We intentionally put out those iconic styles in our lobby.”
Past the security desk, the impression is sustained, with a 14-story atrium, double-height glass-enclosed meeting rooms and 40,000-square-foot virtually column-free floor plates enabling large groups of designers and product development people to work together in open spaces. Coach occupies 12 of the 14 floors. “You can look through the atrium and see all of this creativity and buzz of activity,” Kahn said. “We were very thoughtful in the design of the building. When you think about New York, you think about the two most precious commodities, light and air. When you look at our headquarters, we really have an abundance of both.”
There’s also 20,000 square feet for the ready-to-wear atelier and a workshop for handbags and small leather goods, which Kahn says “allows our people to actually see product come to life. It shows our commitment to craftsmanship.”
The LEED Gold interior has living walls of greenery, an outdoor balcony on the 23rd floor called The Terrace, event spaces and 14-inch raised floors to house HVAC, wiring and cable. Individuals in their work stations can each control the level of heating and air conditioning.
There is also a dining facility serving upward of 900 meals at lunch, coffee stations on every other floor, the multimedia Heritage Room for previewing collections, five showrooms for Coach’s various lines; model stores so merchants can merchandise the collections in advance of retailing them, and magnificent views of the Highline, the Hudson River and Manhattan’s West Side.
Eight years ago, Lew Frankfort, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Coach, instructed Kahn to find and conceptualize a new Manhattan headquarters. He didn’t make the assignment easy.
“His original vision was to have an urban campus,” recalled Kahn. “He was very prescriptive in his views. He wanted something south of 57th Street, west of Sixth Avenue, north of Canal. We wanted large floor plates where we could really have a lot of collaborative space and he really liked the concept of an old loftlike environment, which was very much in Coach’s DNA. We looked at 500 locations, quickly narrowed it down, and did a deep dive on 17 locations over two years.”
Why the West Side? “That’s where our DNA has always been,” Kahn said, pointing to the area once defined by manufacturing, artisans and creativity, as Coach might be defined.
“We have been in this neighborhood for over 50 years. It does speak to us,” Kahn said. It’s also not far from where Coach had been headquartered, though less practically so in three buildings.
Coach moved into its headquarters in May. The 52-story building is where L’Oréal USA, Boston Consulting Group, SAP and VaynerMedia are also located, though because Coach was first to move in and sign a deal with Related Cos., the developer of Hudson Yards, some people refer to the site as the Coach Tower. It’s at the south side of Hudson Yards, a massive mixed-use complex under development bordered by 10th and 12th Avenues and 30th and 34th Streets. The complex will include the Shed for fashion shows and other events; office towers; residential towers; a school; Thomas Heatherwick’s Vessel, a huge installation that will become the centerpiece of the public square and gardens, and the 1 million-square-foot Shops at Hudson Yards mall, which will house Coach and Stuart Weitzman stores, as well as the first Neiman Marcus in New York City.
“Being connected to the Highline and building something that was new…was exciting,” Kahn said. “Because we were the first company to commit to Hudson Yards and were coinvestors in building this building, we obviously were able to have a great deal of input into its design.”
Coach sold for $700 million its interest in the building and arranged a sale-leaseback in the summer for its 690,000 square feet. “We took out the capital that we invested and were able to secure our home for the next 20 years at compelling rents.” It also improved Coach’s balance sheet and profit-and-loss statement and provided more money for the business. Kahn said Coach basically broke even on the deal, and was able to design a space to fit the company’s needs at $65 a square foot.
“We focused on a modern way of working, which is much more open seating. Every floor has mostly open seating. We wanted all of our associates to have the benefit of light and air.” And windows aren’t just in the offices, so you can gaze out over Manhattan’s West Side from communal areas. “We put a premium on not having all of the windows be officed,” Kahn said.
“You will also notice nobody has phones at their desks. Everything is voice-over IP from their computer and everybody uses wireless headsets. It creates a freedom and takes another device off the desk for more workspace.”
In addition, “The aesthetics of our interior design are reflective of our modern luxury design, some of the flooring, the steel I-beams are very much in line with what we are doing in the store environments. The bannister rails have leather coverings that harken back to our heritage and tradition. The flooring, both the red bricks in the lobby as well as the wood parquet, is what we are using in the store environment.”