The historic Saks complex in Beverly Hills to obtain offices and apartments
Since 1938, Saks Fifth Avenue was the maven of classic luxury shopping in Beverly Hills, a beacon on Wilshire Boulevard for the affluent.
Now the famous department store is set to move to make way for a mixed-use complex that could energize a quiet part of Wilshire near Rodeo Drive.
HBC, parent company of Saks and Canadian retail giant Hudson’s Bay, announced plans on Thursday to convert a property around its historic Saks Building into a collection of offices, retail and residential serving the Beverly neighborhood. Hills. The intention is to revive the glamor that once made Wilshire Boulevard the pinnacle of upscale Beverly Hills shopping.
“In the 1930s, this was the commercial heart of Beverly Hills”, architect Leo Marmol said, “the shining jewel on top of the mountain.”
Retailers on Greater Wilshire Boulevard once included department stores I. Magnin and Haggarty’s, luxury furniture store W & J Sloane, and smaller stores catering to a prosperous clientele.
Over the next few years, much of the action moved north to the so-called Golden Triangle around Rodeo Drive, Marmol said. The goal is to “bring back some of the beauty and luxury to Wilshire Boulevard and rekindle the commercial excitement of these original historic buildings”.
Saks plans to move its long-running women’s store one block east to a building on Wilshire Boulevard last occupied by the Barneys New York department store, which closed in 2020. Saks leased the building erected in the 1990s and is renovating it in anticipation of moving in next year.
Saks’ separate men’s store (formerly the I. Magnin store) will remain at Wilshire and Bedford Drive.
The Beverly Hills Saks is the second-best performing of the chain’s 41 U.S. stores, after the New York flagship, HBC chief executive Richard Baker said. “We consider this our second flagship store.”
But the company was “really, really frustrated with what was happening on that end of town,” Baker said. “About six years ago, I decided we needed to get involved ourselves” to help make Wilshire part of the city’s bustling shopping district that people would like to explore on foot.
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, vice-president. Senior President of Development.
He declined to estimate the cost of the project, but acknowledged that such an endeavor would require hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Saks women’s store dates back to 1938, when Saks Fifth Avenue stores president Adam Gimbel announced its opening, stating that Los Angeles had “joined Paris and New York as one of the style centers of the world”. Los Angeles shoppers would even see exclusive fashions before they appear in the East, he said, “due to previous seasons that California enjoys due to its beautiful weather.”
The Beverly Hills store flourished and Saks continued to expand, beginning with a taller five-story addition in 1939 that remains the heart of the store. Although the Saks property is not an official landmark, the architects behind its design were among the most highly regarded in Los Angeles.
The Parkinson & Parkinson Company – 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 at Wilshire and Peck Drive.
Paul R. Williams, who designed commercial buildings including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the homes of many celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, created the 1939 addition and interiors for Saks, Marmol said.
Saks wanted Williams to design the interiors because “he was appealing to a very elite and delicate sensibility by making private homes for the rich and famous,” Marmol said, and would make the store feel like a nice house where shopping seemed to be less commercial. live.
Williams gave Saks the ambiance of an expensive mansion and designed each area to be semi-enclosed, minimizing distractions for guests, according to the Los Angeles Conservatory.
Rooms were bathed in soft luxury, lit by a mix of indirect lamps and small hidden 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 the Parkinsons is “incredibly daunting,” said Marmol, whose company Marmol Radziner is working on the new design.
The plan calls for the 1930s buildings to be converted to 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 big entertainment venue,” Adams said, but rather a place where members could socialize over food and drink, visit a spa or work in coworking spaces. It would reflect “the Saks buyer and his desires,” he said.
Saks’ one-story shoe store at Wilshire and Bedford Drive, a 1990s addition, would be removed to make way for an office block.
Another office structure would be built at Wilshire and Peck Drive, on a parking lot next to the former Barneys store, for a combined total of 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 paved lots behind the Saks and Barneys buildings would be landscaped with stores, restaurants, and two apartment buildings containing a combined total of 68 units. None of the apartments would be subsidized for low-income tenants, but HBC Properties intends to contribute replacement costs to the city’s affordable housing fund, the company said.
Apartment dwellers are likely to include local empty nesters interested in more urban living, Adams said. “We definitely see a need for longtime Beverly Hills residents to sell their homes because they want to stay in town in a different type of situation.”
The developers’ intention is to make the Saks complex active all day and into the evening with shops and restaurants. Among them would be rooftop dining options, a nod to the early years when famed Los Angeles restaurateur Alexander Perino served lunch, dinner and cocktails atop Saks.
Baker hopes the makeover will also mend Saks’ relationship with southerners because “the view out the back is really not nice,” he said. “It was not originally thoughtfully built for the people who lived behind us.”
SBC’s goal is to elevate the Saks Blocks in a way that activates the streetscape on Wilshire and inspires other landlords to do the same. Tastefully, of course.
“We’re not looking to be revolutionary,” Baker said. “We want to be transformational and do the right thing for our neighbors and Saks Fifth Avenue.”