End of an era for New York retail landmark

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End of an era for New York retail landmark

By Marianne Wilson - 01/02/2019
One of Manhattan’s most iconic and oldest department stores has gone dark.

The 104-year-old Lord & Taylor flagship on Fifth Avenue officially closed its doors on Wed., Jan. 2. The retailer’s parent company, Hudson’s Bay Company, sold the landmark, 676,000-sq.-ft. Italian Renaissance building to co-working giant WeWork for $850 million in fall 2017. When the sale was announced, the plan was for Lord & Taylor to maintain a scaled-down retail presence in the 11-story building, but in June the retailer announced it would totally exit the building.

“After evaluating best use scenarios for its New York City Fifth Avenue location, the company has decided not to maintain a presence at this location following turnover of the building to WeWork,” Lord & Taylor said in a release. “Exiting this iconic space reflects Lord & Taylor's increasing focus on its digital opportunity and [Hudson's Bay Co.'s] commitment to improving profitability.”

WeWork hopes to have three floors of retail in the building, according to Women’s Wear Daily. (No tenant has yet been announced.), and to use the rest of the space itself. Working in collaboration with its chief architect Bjarke Ingels and his team at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), WeWork plans to restore what it said made the building an architectural masterpiece: the massive display windows on street level, the delicate metalwork around the entrance, and the expansive rooftop terrace. (The city gave the building landmark status in 2007,

“Preserving one of the most iconic buildings in New York City’s history is a monumental opportunity,” stated Ingels. “Our design will honor Lord & Taylor’s past, building towards the future and ensuring this landmark continues to be a central figure in our city for years to come. Traditional meets modern to bring renewed energy to the space, sparking new ideas and connections among its future tenants and users.”

Lord & Taylor was founded in 1826 by cousins Sam Lord and George Taylor. The company’s Fifth Avenue flagship, renowned for its animated holiday window displays, opened in 1914. On its first day, more than 75,000 people crowded through the two-story arched entryway on Fifth Avenue, according to the New York Times. It opened with such amenities as a concert hall with a build-in pipe organ and several elaborate dining rooms. For employees, the new store offered separate roof-top lunch rooms for male and female associates, a doctor and dentist’s office, and a gymnasium.

The city gave the building landmark status in 2007.