BANANA REPUBLIC GETS THEATRICAL

Byline: Robert Spector

SEATTLE — In an unusual $5 million renovation project, Banana Republic has converted the landmark Coliseum Theatre here into a flagship site and kept many of the original classical architectural features.
“We have done a number of these kinds of renovations where we try to retain the character of the building,” said Donald G. Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of The Gap, which operates Banana Republic, “but none that are as big as this one.”
The 78-year-old Coliseum was one of the first theaters in the world specifically built to show motion pictures. It opened as a Banana Republic Nov. 14. The exterior walls of the 11,000-square-foot unit have been restored to nearly their original appearance, with a two-story glass facade above the corner entrance.
Inside, several original features have been incorporated into the design, including casts from the ceiling, two decorative screens constructed from original elevator door panels, decorative steel sash windows and Italian chandeliers and sconces. Dressing rooms include refurbished, cushioned theater seats.
The retail space covers two levels, which are connected by a marble staircase. The men’s area is on the lower level, and the women’s area is on the second level. Although new ceilings were installed, portions of the original vaulted ceiling remain under the balcony, above the former loge seating area.
Ornate friezes and Roman columns can be seen throughout the store, reinforcing the image of the Coliseum in Rome.
Apparel is displayed on tables and hangers, as well as shelves recessed into the walls.
That architectural approach was taken so the building could be converted back to a theater, if necessary. But it is not expected, since Banana Republic has a 20-year lease on the space.
The Gap declined to provide initial sales results at the store.
Banana Republic’s other flagships are in Manhattan, Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Chicago.
Fisher said Banana Republic plans to open 20 stores a year for the next several years. It will continue upgrading existing locations.
“One of the things that the company does is keep going back and upgrading the older stores,” he said. “We spend a lot of money trying to maintain our property.”
Discussing other Gap divisions, Fisher said Old Navy, the lower-priced, basics-oriented chain, was “doing nicely,” and that after nearly 50 store openings this year, the company expected to open between 50 and 100 next year.”
— Fairchild News Service

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