You don't need retail savvy to sense the success of the two-year-old women's shoe department on the second floor of Macy's Herald Square. A consolidation of smaller, obscure shops scattered around the building, the 39,000-square-foot sales area offers an array of footwear from luxury to budget, arranged by type or brand in individual boutiques or open 'rooms.' It also features a caf', with newly exposed windows overlooking Broadway.
This comfortably urbane shoe salon was one of the first phases of a $400 million storewide overhaul that began in 2011 and is due to wrap up later this year. Designed by suburban-Chicago-based Charles Sparks + Company, it embodies the spirit and commitment with which parent company Macy's Inc. is striving to improve the customer experience and revitalize its historic flagship.
A succession of early 20th-century buildings'a 1902 Beaux Arts structure by De Lemos & Cordes at Broadway and 34th Street, and three increasingly Moderne additions by Robert Kohn completed in 1924, 1928, and 1931'Macy's Herald Square occupies an entire city block. At more than 1 million square feet of retail space, it is one of the largest department stores in the world and nearly as big a tourist attraction as its neighbor the Empire State Building.
The Herald Square store is 'the face of Macy's,' says senior vice president of store design Tom Herndon. This is why the executive management team made a strategic decision to renovate and reimagine the entire building, he adds. During the postwar decades it suffered misguided remodelings and had become tired, difficult to traverse, and largely neglected above the first few levels, where tourists congregate.
The goal was to reclaim as much of the existing architecture as possible and at the same time bring the store into the 21st century with state-of-the-art technology, improved circulation, and a timeless scheme. To do this without disrupting business on the 11 retail floors, Herndon tapped the expertise of several firms. In addition to Sparks, who also devised a men's store-within-a-store on seven levels of the building's west side, key players include two local firms, Studio V and Kevin Kennon Architects, and BHDP, a Cincinatti-based practice that recently completed a much refreshed women's fashion area on the fourth floor.
Studio V developed a master plan with the in-store design team, logically layering the selling floors, restoring all of the existing wood escalators, and adding vertical transportation that leads customers to new target areas like the shoe floor, a newly restored mezzanine, and Stella 34, a destination restaurant the firm created on the sixth floor. Led by principal Jay Valgora, Studio V reinstated the elegance of the 1902 building's ground-floor retail hall, laying the foundation for much of the design language used throughout the store.
Kennon, responsible for refurbishing the exterior, worked with the various design teams to reveal (or recreate) blocked windows, introducing daylight and views into the mezzanine and ground floor along 34th Street as well as the caf', Stella 34, and designer shops on the Broadway facade. He reworked existing lobbies to accommodate cutting-edge LED signage and revived the original main entry on 34th Street, the Memorial Entrance, so called for its plaques honoring Macy's employees lost during World War I, along with co-owner Isador Strauss and his wife, Ida, who died on the Titanic.
The nearly complete restoration is clean and contemporary, yet maintains the building's bones and legacy. Moreover, by reconfiguring mechanicals and stock rooms, the architects gained ceiling height and an additional 100,000 square feet of selling area. Though the company doesn't share sales figures, Herndon says that customers are responding in an extremely positive way'and with their pocketbooks. And it's contagious, he notes: 'Every time we open up a new area, there is a halo effect on the areas that have already opened.'
Studio V Architecture — Jay Valgora, principal; Charles Sparks + Company — Charles Sparks, principal; Kevin Kennon Architects — Kevin Kennon, principal; BHDP Architecture — Andrew McQuilkin, retail leader
Gross square footage: approximately 1.1 million
Project cost: $400 million
Completion Date: November 2015 (projected)
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Kevin Kennon Architects: Principal: Kevin Kennon; Project Manager: Paul Sheehan, Jason Kim; Senior technical associate: Armando Gutierrez; Job Captain: Matthew Haseltine; Associates: Caroline Quinio, Ankur Verma, Se Jung Oh; Design Team: Hongsuk Kim, Ninad Garware, Jim Tung, Kai Yu Yu, Tanita Choudhury, Allison Shawn Conley, Manuel Saba
Architect of record:
Structural: Thornton Tomasetti
Metal & Glass:
(The Broadway marquee roof was partially rebuilt with new framing.)
Metal Panels: Steel cladding painted to match new and existing bronze cladding
Paint: PPG Coraflon paint “Dark Briar”
All existing and new bronze patina/stained dark statuary bronze.
Other special hardware: Besam SW200i automatic door operators.
Paints and stains:
Stone & Solid surfacing:
Floor and wall tile:
Window Shades & Drapery: