From Home Furnishing Business
Riverside Renovates Historic High Point YMCA to Create Showroom Complex
Ft. Smith, Arkansas-based Riverside Furniture, a leading case goods resource, is renovating the historic 1925 YMCA gymnasium and adding a 70,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art product development, office, showroom and hospitality complex set to open for the 2021 Spring High Point Market.
While preserving the historic property at 401 S. Main St. and keeping the gymnasium, pool and architectural elements like vintage glass block windows, rafters and birdseye maple flooring, High Point architects Freeman Kennett will add a two-story glass atrium off the Wrenn Street-facing façade, creating a new pedestrian entrance from the furniture market district. There also will be a 4th floor terrace and indoor-outdoor hospitality area, 3rd floor studio for private label products and future concepts, and 4th floor offices and a “Collab Lab” where a growing team of 6-8 Riverside merchandising employees will work year round.
“The 70,000-square foot, four-story complex will be one of the most visible properties in the High Point market district and an absolutely unique architectural and economic blending of the past and the future,” said Fred Henjes, president and CEO.
The first two floors, approximately 40,000 square feet, will be devoted to High Point Market showroom space for Riverside branded products. This is more than twice the size of the company’s current 17,000 square feet of furniture display space in the International Home Furnishing Center (IHFC). Part of the new showroom will be in the original gymnasium, with the hardwood floors, bleachers and a few basketball goals intact. The company plans to have a glass floor over the original pool so that its mosaic tile and ambient lighting can be admired.
Riverside will show for the last time at the IHFC at the October 18-23 High Point Market. During the 2020 High Point Markets, Riverside will show in an interim space at the Market on Green.
With an eye to the future, Riverside will relocate several product development employees from Ft. Smith to High Point, “the epicenter of the furniture world,” Henjes said. The company envisions an exciting year-round hub where retail customers will visit to see proprietary products and where employees and suppliers will create future concepts in a 6,000-square-foot open and relaxed “Collab Lab” with large TVs for international and domestic teleconferencing.
Riverside also envisions a fun and welcoming atmosphere for its customers and the furniture trade, said Henjes. Noting that the company will retain a full exercise facility and racquetball courts and is considering having morning and evening yoga and spin classes, Henjes said “Our objective is to create an inviting atmosphere offering a great space for collaboration and camaraderie, a place where you can join us on the 4th floor for brick-oven “Philly Style” pizza, micro beer or a soft drink.”
Near the entrance of the showroom, the company plans a public access area to view a memorabilia gallery of the storied history of the YMCA, where generations of children, youth, college students and adults played in athletic or industrial leagues, and where NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain played in the National YMCA Championship game at the age of 16. There’s been no general public access to the historic building since it was purchased by attorney Joe Floyd in 1991. “Everyone has a story to tell about how the YMCA impacted them,” Henjes said. “Maybe their dad played racquetball there in the 40s or they played basketball there as a youth in the 70s. There’s a rich cultural significance to the building, and we are glad to pay homage to that history and build upon it.”
High Point-based architecture firm Freeman Kennett recently has worked on several other prominent High Point Market buildings including the Markor Art Center housing Caracole and ART and the former Christopher Guy Showroom, both on Hamilton Street; the Bank on Wrenn showroom for Made Goods on North Main St.; the Parker House Showroom on Elm St. and are currently in the design phase for the new American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation building on Hamilton Street. The Riverside project is being built by Dunbar & Smith Contractors of High Point.