Heritage Heroes, Part V

This year’s Renovation Competition winners lend modern flair to legacy brands and buildings
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Posted September 19, 2016

CONVERSION – SPECIALTY STORE, SALES AREA UNDER 10,000 SQ. FT.

Carhartt
Detroit

Submitted by: RGLA, Schiller Park, Ill.
Photography: CHARLIE MAYER, OAK PARK, ILL.

As the official garb of hands-on laborers, it was only fitting that Carhartt’s hometown flagship pay homage to Detroit’s past as a manufacturing city. The site – a former car dealership, built in 1928 – references the metropolis’ leadership in the automobile industry. Painted on the art deco building’s façade, a Diego Rivera-style mural titled “Born in Detroit” depicts the city’s pivotal roles in the railroad, automotive, agricultural and construction industries. To preserve the historic building while capturing the retailer’s aesthetic, architecture and design firm RGLA Solutions Inc. (Schiller Park, Ill.) treated the storefront as a memorable touchpoint.


Carhartt, Detroit / Photography: CHARLIE MAYER, OAK PARK, ILL.

“Carhartt wanted a signature element that customers could identify with,” says Ed Hanlon, senior designer, RGLA, which included weathered steel doors with Carhartt-logo handles, flanked by art deco metal grilles. The store’s design proudly looks to the past, but doesn’t forget to look forward, reflecting Detroit’s current renaissance. Working alongside neighborhood development groups, local vendors and tradesmen, the project was truly a homegrown effort: Designers even used reclaimed wood from abandoned Detroit homes for cladding and fixture tables, stamping each piece with its original address.

“As [a firm] … there is no greater satisfaction than to help bring to life a vacant building that once stood empty … and let it become a key part of a revitalization movement,” adds Robert Arend, principal/chief operating officer, RGLA.


Carhartt, Detroit / Photography: CHARLIE MAYER, OAK PARK, ILL.

And the flagship’s appeal to both its core audience and a new, younger demographic wasn’t lost on VMSD’s competition judges: “People who wear it for work would be comfortable here, as well as those who wear it for fashion – it feels soulful,” said Ryan Brazelton, executive creative director, Interbrand Design Forum (Dayton, Ohio).

View Parts I, II, III and IV of this year’s competition.

To enter VMSD’s 2017 Retail Renovation Competition, stay tuned for the announcement of the call for entries, early next year.