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Old site of LouisBoston gets new high-end tenant

Restoration Hardware returns to Back Bay

A high-end home furnishings store will fill one of the Back Bay’s most prominent vacancies. A high-end home furnishings store will fill one of the Back Bay’s most prominent vacancies. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff/File 2010)
By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / September 28, 2011

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Restoration Hardware, the high-end home furnishings seller that left the Back Bay during the recession, has unveiled plans to open in the old LouisBoston space near its former location on Boylston Street.

The return of Restoration Hardware will fill one of the most prominent vacancies in Boston’s Back Bay and marks the latest in a flurry of new merchants in the neighborhood.

“When they decided to move away in 2008, the market was cratering, said Madison Riley, a retail analyst with Kurt Salmon in Boston. “Retailers have pushed to drive costs down in the past 24 months. And now real estate is cheaper than it was in the past and retailers have much more power.’’

Restoration Hardware officials would not discuss the deal. David Fleming, a spokesman for the building’s owners group, S.R. Weiner & Associates and WS Development, also declined to answer questions about the negotiations or the number of merchants that were interested in the 40,000-plus square-foot-site, once home to the New England Museum of Natural History. In May 2008, the luxury emporium LouisBoston said it would leave the building and move to the waterfront.

Restoration Hardware’s lease agreement comes weeks after the company filed plans to go public for a second time in an effort to raise up to $150 million on the stock market. It was taken private in June 2008 as the company struggled with losses.

Over the past year, Restoration Hardware has attempted to move away from its heritage as a niche business built on knobs, hinges, and hooks. Now, the company is trying to position itself as a luxury home-decor seller. Merchandise featured on its website includes a $14,695 Soho Tufted U-Chaise sectional, a $3,595 Foucault Orb Crystal Chandelier, and a $6,295 Spartan outdoor daybed made of all-weather wicker.

Restoration Hardware has about 100 stores throughout the United States and Canada, including a shop at the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets.

The company, in a statement, described the Back Bay location as a gallery and said it will “express new and evolving ways of designing the home, and will serve as a showcase for the company’s extensive Outdoor & Garden Collections.’’

Restoration Hardware is one of several merchants to leave the Back Bay only to return months or years later to the coveted retail district. Rockport shoes closed its Newbury Street shop in January 2009 and reopened down the street in October 2010. Timberland also returned this spring after nearly a decade hiatus.

“The Back Bay has always been and is a desired market in Boston,’’ said Jeremy Grossman, an executive with CBRE-Grossman, a real estate services firm that is marketing the former Borders bookstore space on Boylston Street. “We’ve had a lot of attention from worldwide concepts. WS Development took their time to find the right fit for the building with Restoration Hardware, and ultimately, that’s what we’re doing with our property.’’

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.