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Beverly Hills’ historic Saks complex will have offices and apartments

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Since 1938, Saks Fifth Avenue has been Beverly Hills’ classic luxury shopping expert, a beacon on Wilshire Boulevard for the well-to-do.

Now the famous department store is moving to make way for a mixed-use complex that could energize a quiet stretch of Wilshire near Rodeo Drive.

HBC, the parent company of Saks and Canadian retail giant Hudson’s Bay, announced plans Thursday to transform the property around its historic Saks building into an office, retail and residential cluster serving the Beverly Hills neighborhood. The intention is to revive the glamor that once made Wilshire Boulevard the pinnacle of luxury shopping in Beverly Hills.

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“In the 1930s, this was the commercial heart of Beverly Hills,” said architect Leo Marmol, “the shining jewel on top of the mountain.”

This artist’s rendering shows the historic exterior of the Saks Fifth Avenue building in Beverly Hills, which will be rehabilitated as part of a proposed mixed-use development for the site. In the foreground is a planned office building with a restaurant at street level. The project will also include apartments and commercial premises.

(HBC)

Grand Wilshire Boulevard’s retailers once included department stores I. Magnin and Haggarty’s, luxury furniture store W & J Sloane, and smaller shops catering to an affluent clientele.

In later years, much of the action moved north in the so-called Golden Triangle to the outskirts of Rodeo Drive, Marmol said. The goal is to “bring some of the beauty and luxury to Wilshire Boulevard and rekindle the retail excitement that those original historic buildings had.”

Saks plans to move its former women’s store a block east to a Wilshire Boulevard building last occupied by Barneys New York department store, which closed in 2020. Saks has leased the building built in the 1990s and is renovating in anticipation of moving next year.

The separate Saks men’s store (formerly the I. Magnin store) will remain at Wilshire and Bedford Drive.

Beverly Hills Saks is the second-highest performing among the chain’s 41 US stores, after the flagship store in New York, HBC Chief Executive Richard Baker said. “We consider this to be our second flagship store.”

But the company was “really pretty frustrated with what was going on on that end of town,” Baker said. “About six years ago, I decided we had to get involved ourselves” to help make Wilshire a part of the city’s bustling business district that people would enjoy visiting on foot.

A rendering of a proposed mixed-use development plan for historic Saks Fifth Avenue

An artist’s rendering of a proposed mixed-use development plan for the historic Saks Fifth Avenue building in Beverly Hills shows the view from Wilshire Boulevard and Bedford Drive. The corner building will contain offices, with restaurants and shops at street level.

(HBC)

HBC Properties and Investments, the real estate arm of HBC, will seek city approval for a 3.4-acre development around the current Saks women’s store that will be completed in about five years, said Douglas Adams, senior vice president of development.

He declined to estimate how much the project would cost, but acknowledged that such an undertaking would require hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Saks women’s store dates back to 1938, when the president of Saks Fifth Avenue stores, Adam Gimbel, announced its opening by stating that Los Angeles had “joined Paris and New York as one of the style centers of the world.” Shoppers in Los Angeles would even see exclusive fashions before they appeared in the East, he said, “because of the earlier seasons that California enjoys because of its good weather conditions.”

The Beverly Hills store prospered and Saks continued to expand, beginning with a five-story taller addition in 1939 that remains the heart of the store. Although the Saks estate is not an official landmark, the architects behind its design are among the most lauded in Los Angeles.

The firm Parkinson & Parkinson, an architectural design heavyweight led by father-son team John and Donald Parkinson, who created Los Angeles City Hall, Union Station and Bullock’s Wilshire department store, designed the first Saks building in Wilshire and Peck Drive.

A rendering shows gardens and seating in the planned development of the Saks Fifth Avenue site.

An artist’s rendering shows gardens and seating in the planned development of the Saks Fifth Avenue site.

(HBC)

Paul R. Williams, who designed commercial buildings including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the homes of numerous celebrities including Frank Sinatra, created the 1939 addition and interiors for Saks, Marmol said.

Saks wanted Williams to design the interiors because “it catered to a very delicate and elite sensibility doing private homes for the rich and famous,” Marmol said, and would make the store feel like a fine home where shopping seemed less commercial. experience.

Williams gave Saks the feel of an expensive mansion and designed each area to be semi-enclosed, minimizing distractions for customers, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy.

The rooms were suffused with soft luxury, lit with a mix of indirect lamps and small concealed spotlights aimed at clothing, an unusual tactic for a department store. Most of the clothing was stored out of sight, with only samples on display.

Following in the footsteps of Williams and Parkinson’s is “incredibly intimidating,” said Marmol, whose firm Marmol Radziner is working on the new design.

The plan calls for converting the 1930s buildings for a mix of uses, including stores considered complementary to the Saks brand, offices for rent and a private Saks club.

The club is “not intended to be a huge entertainment venue,” Adams said, but rather a place where members can socialize over food and drinks, visit a spa or work in co-working spaces. It would reflect “the Saks shopper and her wishes,” she said.

Saks’ one-story shoe store at Wilshire and Bedford Drive, a 1990s addition, would be removed to make way for an office building.

A rendering shows outdoor dining at the proposed Saks Fifth Avenue development.

An artist’s rendering shows what outdoor dining would look like on the Peck Drive side of a planned mixed-use development at the Saks Fifth Avenue Historic Site in Beverly Hills. The proposed project would include offices, residences, restaurants and shops.

(HBC)

Another office structure would be built at Wilshire and Peck Drive, in a parking lot adjacent to the former Barneys store, for a combined 140,000 square feet of office space in the complex. The site is a few blocks from a Metro subway station scheduled to open in 2025.

Parking would be moved underground and the asphalt lots behind the Saks and Barneys buildings would be developed with shops, restaurants and two apartment buildings containing a combined 68 units. None of the apartments would be subsidized for low-income renters, but HBC Properties intends to contribute in lieu of the fees to the city’s affordable housing fund, the company said.

Apartment dwellers are likely to include local empty nesters interested in a more urban lifestyle, Adams said. “We definitely see the need to move, long-term residents of Beverly Hills who are selling their homes because they want to stay in the city in a different kind of situation.”

The developers’ intention is to make the Saks complex active all day and into the night with shops and restaurants. Among them would be rooftop dining options, a nod to the early years when acclaimed Los Angeles restaurateur Alexander Perino served lunch, dinner and cocktails atop Saks.

Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills

Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the most famous department stores in Beverly Hills, is moving to make way for a mixed-use complex.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Baker hopes the makeover will also mend Saks’ relationship with southerners because “the view from the back isn’t really pretty,” he said. “It wasn’t originally built with the people who lived behind us in mind.”

SBC’s goal is to elevate the Saks blocks in a way that activates the streetscape in Wilshire and inspires other homeowners to do the same. With good taste, of course.

“We’re not looking to be revolutionary,” Baker said. “We want to be transformative and do what’s right for our neighbors and Saks Fifth Avenue.”

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