The southeast corner window of the old department store - once the city’s most popular spot to take the kids to visit Santa - is being outfitted to revive that tradition.
Workers in white protective gear painstakingly remove lead-based paint from window frames and put the finishing touches on restoration of the terra cotta exterior.
That’s about all that patrons of the stately old Frederick & Nelson department store, a paragon of downtown elegance since opening day in 1918, will recognize when it is reborn in August next year as the $100 million flagship and corporate headquarters of the Nordstrom retail clothing chain.
“We’ll have new elegance,” chief Nordstrom spokeswoman Brooke White said during a recent tour of the project.
Gone are the green stone flooring and lush fixtures. Elevator shafts have been moved from the north to the east wall, and the ornate, leisurely moving cages have been junked.
“Too old,” White said. “Everything had to be replaced to bring the building up to code. The new electrical and mechanical systems wouldn’t have been compatible.”
Pointing to signs designating the location of children’s wear, a gift shop, juniors and other sections on the fourth floor, about halfway through the conversion, she said, “the store is really becoming ours now.”
Costing enough to build three to five Nordstrom stores from scratch, it should.
With 380,000 square feet, including a day spa, multipurpose rooms and regional offices, the store will be the biggest as well as the most expensive in the chain, which has 84 stores in 17 states and $4.5 billion in sales last year. The corporate office space covers another 300,000 square feet.
The new store is being equipped with a standup expresso bar, espresso cart, family-oriented cafe, a more masculine-style grill with beer and wine near the men’s clothing section, valet parking, live piano music, concierge desk, shoeshine stand and 11 restrooms with 50 stalls, 26 for women, 21 for men, two private toilets in the spa area and one for children with parents.
On the exterior, designated a city landmark, all 1,746 window frames are being checked and repaired or replaced as needed. All the glass is being replaced with double panes.
Mortar around the terra cotta has been replaced and the delicate decorative work cleaned and repaired.
“Even as we were checking it, some of the pieces just fell and broke off in our hands,” White said.