Paul Wilson: Hall’s Plaza to Resurface as Restoration Hardware

Image-Halls-on-the-PlazaBeing well-wired, your well-coiffed scribe entails always being on the bleeding edge of what’s moving and shaking in the KC metro rumor mill…

Long before the others know it or bring it to the printed word. Case in point:

When Halls Plaza vacates its ritzy Country Club Plaza digs for their soon-to-be renovated new home at Crown Center downtown, their former home is slated to undergo an extensive remodel of 18-24 months, and ropen as….RESTORATION HARDWARE!

That’s right, go ahead and rub your eyes, it’s true.

Restoration Hardware has 74 retail stores and 13 outlet stores in 30 states, DC and Canada. Kansas City’s Plaza Restoration Hardware store has apparently been a very profitable location and is about to become one of the company’s flagship locations.

They have been enormously successful while claiming less than one percent of the total $143 billion home furnishings market share.

My first thought, Halls location is just too big.

And as I understand it, RH plans to take the entire space.

On further examination though into the company’s strategy, size does matter and RH likes it big.

Today, they have what they consider “flagship stores” in Boston, Buckhead, GA. West Hollywood, Corte Madera, CA, Greenwich, CT, Houston and New York

The Boston location is 40,000sq ft., New York is 19,000, Buckhead, 34,000 (where they took over the former ESPN Zone building) and Houston weighs in at 25,000sq ft.

So Halls would fit right in.

Dissecting it further, I thought, renovating the Hall’s facility is just too big a project and the rumored renovation schedule I was told about seemed much, much too lengthy. And I know a thing or two about commercial real estate development.

But a closer look at the Boston flagship store that opened this year, shows that site took two years of planning and renovations. It was done in an 1860’s historic building, now officially called The Gallery at The Historic Museum of Natural History.

item0.rendition.slideshowWideHorizontal.restoration-hardware-boston-store-01-exterior-historic-buildingIn Boston, “The architects stripped back decades of structural modifications, such as auxiliary mezzanine levels and pedestrian elevators, to open up the 40,000 square foot, making the original vaulted ceiling visible from 70 feet below. It’s a dramatic two-year transformation of the historic landmark that is intended to bring a new type of retail experience to the Back Bay.”

The more I’ve looked into it, the more it appears totally in line with what Restoration Hardware has done to date in other premier stores even though Boston is the largest effort to date.

Here’s the level of effort RH seems to be willing invest to make the space just right;

“Consulting old photographs and architectural drawings, the designers took out mezzanines inserted by previous tenants, removed an elevator bank that blocked the central axis through the building, and refurbished original details. Most significant, they opened up the atrium to recapture views from the ground floor all the way to the gilded, coffered ceiling. Gliding up and down that 70-foot-high space is the store’s pièce de résistance: a glass elevator modeled after the one in Los Angeles’s 1893 Bradbury Building, another of Gary Friedman’s favorite landmarks. Friedman is the Chairman and co-CEO of RH.”

Another clue?

The firm plans to open stores in other historic buildings across the country. “Our design point of view comes from an architectural perspective—it’s all about balance, symmetry, and proportion,” Friedman says. “When we have the opportunity to harmonize with great architecture, there’s no better way to present our brand.”

picture-3What better place in KC then than the iconic Hall’s Plaza location?

“The bottom line is this, today we have an assortment with revenue potential that could be more than three times as large as our business today, but the assortment is flat in our undersized real estate portfolio. The real estate transformation into our full line design gallery concept is the key to unlocking the value of our assortment, and it remains our highest priority.”

Less than 20 percent of RH’s inventory is available in store today.

The goal is for the flagship stores to have it all plus a full in-house design service.

I talked to Gayle Terry, Marketing Director at Highwoods to get her comment and she, of course, refused to make a statement but did add some off the record comments that I took into consideration.

My prediction; look for it to be announced in 6 months unless KC Confidential forces the statement to come out earlier.

Regardless, you heard it here first.
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18 Responses to Paul Wilson: Hall’s Plaza to Resurface as Restoration Hardware

  1. Robertoe says:

    Good scoop, Paul.

    That building and Restoration Hardware epitimises whats gone downhill on the Country Club Plaza. Everyone bitches about Highwoods- and for good reason- but I’ll contend the downhill slide started after JC Nichols passed away. The first big project after his demise was that butt ugly box of a building that became Halls. Is it posible to come up with a blander uninteresting building? Then subsequent projects reflected the same lack of architectural cohesion. Look at 1 Ward Parkway- 50% owned by JC Nichols at the time. Looks nothing like the Mediteranean Plaza style. Lots of big ugly boxes went up. Then when Highwoods took over the Plaza Theatre got dumped for a national chain- Restoration Hardware. Does not the irony and hypocracy of ‘Restoration’ Hardware decimating the classic Plaza Theatre resonate? Its all about maxing revenues and the Highwoods bottom line. Unique culture, tradition and history be damned. OK so now that Restoration Hardware is moving into the big box, how do we get the Plaza Theatre back?

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Good points Robertoe and thanks for making an appearance! You should do that more often.

      I can only push the rumor mill so far. No word on the once removed theatre coming back, but if it does; you know you’ll hear it here. I’d be all for it so young scholars would have another place to hang on that end of the venerable Plaza.

      I battled with this story for two weeks before I wrote it, researching what RH has done in the past, what they are doing now, their business model, corporate psychology, calling every contact I have in the area, etc., because I couldn’t tie up enough lose ends to make “me” believe in it.

      But after 3 solid confirmations, as solid as any rumor can be confirmed, plus what seemed to be one contact intentionally trying to throw me off the scent, I felt certain enough to commit it to print.

  2. Pendylove says:

    What RH did to the interior of that beautiful, old Plaza theatre was heartbreaking, sad and disrespectful. We can only hope that the future tenants will truly value it’s “restoration,” and will sand blast off all the ugly gray paint to reveal again the historic building’s interior beauty.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Pendy, I hear you. I loved that old theatre. Progress looks different to different people. I’d take the Plaza in 1979 if I had my choice.
      Thanks for your comment.

  3. paulwilsonkc says:

    SD, I used to come up weekends in 71-72 during high school and stay with my grandfather who lived on the Plaza. Dirty Sally’s, Volker, Cowtown, had a ball.

  4. Balbonis Moleskine says:

    In trying to modernize the Plaza they killed the things that made it unique. Now it is just like any number of upscale outdoor malls that dot the western and southern USA.

    Now we have our own version of The Grove in LA with the same 25 upscale aspirational brands. Yippee, I guess.

    People are poorer now so that $1500 armani suit has become a $150 Armani Exchange screenprinted deep V t-shirt. So now if you need to spend a lot of money looking like you are in the Bridge and Tunnel Posse we got you covered. Good luck actually finding a real, actual tailor.

  5. admin says:

    Well, the Plaza Theater was way long in the tooth and couldn’t support enough movie screens to make it viable in today’s movie market.

    Dickinson had it and was going thru one of its many bouts with trying to survive and no way did it want to pour money down that rat hole.

    It might have made a nice art house, but not with the prevailing rents on the Plaza.

    No, it was time for the Plaza Theater to go. Too bad somebody besides Restoration hardware rescued it because there sure isn’t much, if anything, left from its hallowed past to gaze upon these days.

  6. chuck says:

    I’m gonna scrape up 50 large, go pick up some PVC, 14/2 and a new DeWalt Drill the day they open.

  7. Liz says:

    Personally I think RH taking over Halls is a great idea. It will be kept as one store as oppose to being broken up into many like in a shopping mall. They will maintain yhe building’s integrity and their look compliments the architecture. Good for RH for growing from a company almost bankrupt to a luxury lifestyle brand that everyone admires. It seems to me that people just like to nag and complain about change even if it is good for the city’s economy…

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Liz, Im going to try to comment without it sounding like I’m talking about of both side of my face.
      I totally agree with Robertoe, above, when it comes to the integrity of The Plaza, but Im a bit of a purist. I was sick when part of Harry Starkers and the theatre got munched. I spent countless nights upstairs in Starkers listening to Ida, loved that place, but progress dictates a move forward.
      I spent lots and lots of time in KC, before I moved here, staying at my grandfathers condo on the Plaza as a young kid from Carthage, Mo, Zip Code EIEIO. I thought I was in the big city!
      I hate that I can’t go to Dirty Sallys, Cowtown or Volker on Sunday afternoon.
      All that said, what else was going to come take Halls in one feld swoop? Likely nothing. Im a huge RH fan, so if not them, who?
      I think when its done it will add an anchor to the Plaza that will class things up some. I just hate to see a retail store like Forever21 sit where Swansons was. But RH…. it will fit and progress moves forward, some purists like me have to get over themselves and enjoy the brave new world.

  8. me says:

    The Plaza needs more crappy chain sandwich shops. Here’s to hoping Highwoods has the foresight to backfill RH’s current spot with one of them, maybe even two!

  9. Matt says:

    The question I have in this situation is this: What will go where Restoration Hardware is currently located?

    As much as many locals will disagree with my opinion, the Plaza needs to maintain its upscale image and bring a retailer that’s a one-of-a-kind for the region. I think a Louis Vuitton, or the return of Gucci would be a home run.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Matt, thanks for reaching back to an oldie! I was just glad to scoop every one in the city on Halls going to RH before the negotiations are complete. To the best of my knowledge, since this is so far out, no one knows RH is moving so their space is no where near being marketed. They wanted this quiet for at least 6 months.
      The deal could still go South, but not likely.
      Agree totally on upscale comment. Forever21 is far enough in the bottom of the mass appeal market.

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