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RH a win-win for downtown Birmingham

In mid-August, final approvals were given by the Birmingham City Commission for a new 50,000 square-foot, four-story Restoration Hardware building complete with a rooftop restaurant at the corner of S. Old Woodward, Brown and Daines streets, to replace the current Capital Title/Lutz, Roche Bobois and Frank’s Shoe Service buildings. The 1.24-acre site will allow for pedestrian access on all sides, including a landscaped via at the rear of the building and a courtyard at S. Old Woodward and Daines.

It's destined to be a spectacular addition to S. Old Woodward, right across Brown Street from the new Daxton Hotel, providing not only energy and synergy to the southern end of Birmingham's downtown, but the potential to expand the footprint for vibrant services and amenities beyond the city's center at Maple and Old Woodward. We applaud the vision city planners and leaders have had for Restoration Hardware – known in this incarnation as RH – which has persisted in choosing downtown Birmingham despite setbacks, delays and a small cadre of citizens resistant to change.

RH first sought to come to Birmingham in 2019, as part of a new development on the site of a redesigned N. Old Woodward parking garage, which came before city voters for approval because of a bond guarantee. Somehow it also became a referendum on RH entering the Birmingham market, with neighbors pitted against neighbors. Thankfully, the local aficionados behind the RH project – including Birmingham architect Victor Saroki and Orchard Lake developer Ron Boji, who has an office in Birmingham – persevered, and Birmingham, along with neighboring shoppers in Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Troy and other surrounding communities will be the benefactors in that it's said RH pulls from a 250-mile radius.

It's no secret that retail has had a challenge for the last several years, well before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the playbook for everyone. Now, 18 months into a seismic shift for everyone, including downtown Birmingham's retail and restaurant community, RH will act as an anchor store for the entire downtown, a magnet for shoppers and diners – and other retail establishments looking to the city, thanks to the credibility the national retailer provides.

Yes, there will be challenges – there always are when a new player comes to town. Construction won't be fun, especially next summer, 2022, when RH and S. Old Woodward are both under construction. But it will prove to ultimately be a small price to pay for the end result – RH has said it plans on investing $25 million to create a unique destination shopping experience. Plans indicate three floors of home furnishing galleries, along with a fourth floor indoor/outdoor restaurant. They will offer customers beer and wine through its restaurant, which patrons may sip while perusing the floors. All furnishings, including indoor/outdoor courtyard furniture and restaurant tables and chairs, are part of the RH catalogue and available for purchase.

As for parking, they have 24 underground spaces for valet services. Their restaurant, if RH in other cities are indicators, will be a hot reservation – no different than other Birmingham dining destinations. But furniture stores are not often crammed with shoppers. So let's openly welcome RH with the welcome it deserves. And understand that change is what happens to thriving cities.


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