WeWork is moving forward on its transformation of Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue and it’s all about preserving the flagship’s iconic features and bringing new retail to the site.
On Tuesday, WeWork officials disclosed that plans for the flagship were being presented to Community Board Five’s Landmarks Committee that day, and a final determination on WeWork’s designs and plan for restoring and preserving the Lord & Taylor site would be made in late November.
WeWork, WWD has learned, intends to have three floors for retailing, including the lower, main and second levels but it will be new retail and not Lord & Taylor. “In the coming months, we will have more to share on the interior,” said a WeWork official.
“We wanted to make sure there was public accessibility,” the official said, explaining some of the rationale for having retail. Regarding the retail concept and what the interior of the store will look like, “We’re not there yet. We are focusing on the exterior.”
Exactly what stores or shops move into the site is yet to be determined. However, the official confirmed that a food hall is under consideration.
The Lord & Taylor flagship will close sometime early next year after the holiday selling season. The windows are currently boarded up with going-out-of-business signs that also encourage shoppers to visit other Lord & Taylor stores and the brand’s web site.
Aside from the three levels of retail, the rest of the flagship will become a WeWork facility, and possibly a global headquarters although plans are being finalized for the site.
The 650,000-square-foot, 11-story flagship was given landmark status 11 years ago. It has several special architectural features that WeWork intends to preserve including the bay windows, the bronze entryway on Fifth Avenue, and the rooftop.
Bay windows were blocked off years ago and WeWork wants to restore them to their original size. Upper-level windows will also be restored.
The rooftop has been barely used in recent years, except for an occasional party, wedding or special event for the store. According to WeWork, the rooftop was originally conceived as “an outdoor quiet pavilion” for employees to take a break. “It was seen as an amenity for employees,” said the WeWork official.
WeWork also intends to preserve the limestone Lord & Taylor emblems on the Fifth Avenue facade, as well as the sixth floor balconies which will be restored.
The official said the landmarks committee will take a final vote in late November on WeWork’s preservation proposals. Tweaks to the plan might be necessary.
“This is an important step for us,” said the official. “We are making sure we are paying homage to such a special landmark.”
Community Board Five extends from 14th Street to 59th Street and from Lexington to Eighth avenues.
A year ago, Lord & Taylor, owner Hudson’s Bay Co., agreed to sell the flagship to WeWork for $850 million. The deal, expected to close later this year, is designed to help HBC reduce debt.
“The Lord & Taylor building has already generated incredible excitement among current and potential members, and is an opportunity to honor our home city’s rich history, while also building toward the future by revitalizing this iconic space as a heartbeat of culture, commerce and innovation,” said Granit Gjonbalaj, chief development officer at WeWork.
Lord & Taylor, the oldest department store in the U.S., was founded in 1826 on Catherine Street in lower Manhattan. The store relocated in 1854 to larger quarters on Grand and Chrystie streets on the Lower East Side, and relocated once again in 1914 to its current site on Fifth Avenue, between 38th and 39th streets.
Business, while steady at some Lord & Taylor suburban stores, has long been dwindling at the flagship, with traffic noticeably weak compared to nearby Macy’s four blocks away, and Saks Fifth Avenue, 10 blocks north.