RH receives final approval in Birmingham
By Kevin Elliott
Final plans for a 50,000 square-foot, four-story Restoration Hardware building complete with a rooftop restaurant were approved on Monday, August 9, by the Birmingham City Commission.
The building, to be located along S. Old Woodward between Brown and Daines streets, will 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.
Restoration Hardware, known as RH, plans on investing $25 million in the project to create a unique destination shopping experience. Plans showcase three floors of home furnishing galleries, along with a fourth floor indoor/outdoor restaurant. RH 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 there are limited Class C liquor licenses available in Birmingham, RH plans to obtain an economic development liquor license, which is available to applicants within the city’s economic development zone and who are investing at least $10 million in development. Applicants also must attain a special land use permit from the city, as was approved by the city commission on Monday, August 8.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the permit, final site plan and design review. Commissioners included eight conditions in its approval, with specific language to address parking concerns brought up over the past several months. Those concerns were raised again and discussed at the commission meeting.
“The special land use permit also states that ‘Restoration Hardware agrees to resolve any future parking issues that may arise, including but not limited to parking overflow and encroachment into residential areas or public parking facilities to the satisfaction of the city, or the special land use permit may be cancelled by the city commission,’” said Birmingham Planning Director and Assistant City Manager Jana Ecker. “I bring that to your attention because there is a duty of continued compliance in regard to parking, and I know there were several members of the public who had raised this at earlier hearings.
“RH is very clear on the number of parking spaces they need and how they operate. They do have this type of building and mix of uses at many other locations in other cities in the country and internationally,” Ecker continued. “They do have all their information and are quite sure the parking situation will work. However, if there are any concerns, this then is inserted in the special land use permit and allows the city to go to RH and resolve any parking issues that may arise in the future.”
Restoration Hardware estimates the new store will support about 130 new jobs, plus about 100 additional jobs during construction. Because the building is located in the city’s parking assessment district, it isn’t required to have on-site parking. However, RH is including 24 spaces in an underground parking structure to be utilized for valet parking services.
City commissioners took the parking issue a step further, adding a special condition to the final approval to address valet parking. The special condition specifically states that “Restoration Hardware is required to utilize the underground parking of 24 spaces for valet services or for the public to park during operation of the business.”
About half a dozen residents spoke in favor of the project.
Resident JC Cataldo, who served on the city’s downtown plan advisory committee several years ago, said the plan called for South Old Woodward to have a home furnishings area, as they tend to require less parking and generate less traffic than offices or other businesses.
“We also own a home in Chicago about a block away from the RH store,” Cataldo said. “It’s a residential neighborhood with no extra parking… I thought it was a crazy place to build … but they turned it into a fabulous store.”
Birmingham resident Ingrid Tighe, who served as the former executive director fo the city’s Birmingham Shopping District (BSD), said the project will serve as a destination and help draw pedestrian traffic.
“As we were trying to recruit new businesses, an issue was whether we had enough foot traffic in town,” Tighe said. “Something like RH brings back that essential foot traffic that helps surrounding businesses and prospective businesses that consider Birmingham.”