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  • By Lisa Brody

RH to anchor Woodward Bates project in city

A signature store by RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware, has signed a letter of intent to anchor the building fronting Old Woodward Avenue in front of the new parking structure for the proposed Woodward Bates project in downtown Birmingham.

RH would create a five-story 55,000 square foot store, topped with a rooftop restaurant, similar to other independent RH stores with restaurants in West Palm Beach, New York City, Chicago, Denver and Seattle, where they have showcase buildings offering their furniture and accessories, a demarcated interior design atelier and a rooftop restaurant with outdoor terrace seating. Gary Friedman, chief executive officer of RH has called these spaces “experiential factors” in retailing.

RH currently has a store at the Somerset Collection in Troy that is expected to close when its lease expires.

RH would go into what is known as building two by the developers, Woodward Bates Partners, LLC, comprised Victor Saroki of Saroki Architecture in Birmingham; Paul Robertson of Robertson Brothers Homes in Bloomfield Hills; John Rakolta Jr., of Walbridge in Detroit, and Ron Boji of The Boji Group in Lansing.

The parcel of land, approximately four acres in the city’s central business district, currently consists of the N. Old Woodward parking garage, an adjacent parking lot and adjacent parcels. The project, a public/private partnership between the city of Birmingham and Woodward Bates Partners, will consist of a new parking structure, called building one, that will provide more parking spaces to ease the parking crunch in downtown Birmingham; building two, a five-story building in front of the structure facing N. Old Woodward, where RH is planned to go; an extension of Bates Street that will intersect the development and connect Willits Street to N. Old Woodward; retail stores that will line the parking structure, called building three on the plans; a public plaza with a bridge to Booth Park; a four-story mixed use building in the rear of the property, called building four; and a four-story mixed use building facing Willits Street, called building five, on the current surface lot.

The city of Birmingham will own the parking structure, the public plaza, and the liner building of retail, known as building three. Woodward Bates will enter into a long-term lease (likely 99 years) with the city of Birmingham for building two, the RH building, and the two four-story mixed use buildings, buildings four and five, which are part of a second phase to be built after the parking structure has been built.

At their April 22 meeting, Birmingham city commissioners approved a non-binding resolution to proceed forward with the first phase of developing the Bates Street extension and N. Old Woodward parking structure redevelopment.

On Monday, May 6, commissioners will vote to approve putting a parking structure bond proposal in the amount of $57.4 million on the August 6 ballot. According to the Birmingham city charter, residents must approve a bond vote in order to fund part of the construction of the parking structure. However, city manager Joe Valentine has said that residents would not be taxed for the costs; rather, the remainder of the costs and repayment would all come from the parking system's reserve funds, and user fees will pay off the debt, as it has for all of the other parking structures.

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