New York City Harry Potter Store might have to tame Its Design Dragons

A landmark panel voted against what some members called ‘inappropriate’ signage at the Flatiron District location

By guest authors Katie Honan and Kate King from Wall Street Journal

Muggles of Manhattan get ready: Harry Potter is poised to work his magic in the Flatiron District, but he may have to tame his design aspirations.

Warner Bros. Entertainment is planning to open a retail-concept store called Wizarding World at the corner of Broadway and East 22nd Street, in a building that formerly housed Restoration Hardware, according to a plan presented at a local community board meeting Tuesday evening. The company will occupy about 20000 square feet in the landmark building, which was constructed in the 1860s.

The New York City Landmark (captions by Wall Street Journal)

Eric Bourassa, the principal from the design firm Studio Superette, presented renderings of the store on behalf of Warner Bros. to Manhattan Community Board 5’s landmarks committee to request permission for several alterations to the exterior of the building, which is located in a historic district.

The proposals include adding a fiberglass dragon—a familiar icon for Harry Potter fans—with a clock, two backlit Harry Potter signs and six “wand-style” flagpoles made out of antique brass to the building’s facade, Mr. Bourassa said.

Members of the committee took issue with what some called “inappropriate” signage proposed for the store. The committee voted unanimously to recommend denying the request, a motion that will now go to the full board on Jan. 16 before being sent to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for its consideration later this month.

Actions taken by the community board are seen as advisory to the landmarks commission.

“Flagpoles are a big no-no,” said Layla Law-Gisiko, chair of the committee. “If Harry Potter can put a dragon, then Nike can put a shoe, then the bakery down the block could put a croissant, and then where do you stop?”

A scene of the Harry Potter movie

The block-long building, commissioned by real estate mogul Richard Mortimer and known as “the Mortimer Building,” is significant because it was one of the earliest properties in the Flatiron District built solely for commercial use. When it opened, its tenants included jewelers, dry-goods businesses and the Pach Brothers’ photography studio, according to the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership’s website.

Since the 1960s, when the city’s landmarks law passed, there has been an effort to remove excessive signage from historic buildings, Ms. Law-Gisiko said.

Restoration Hardware, now known as RH, moved to the meatpacking district in 2018.

Asking retail rental rates in the Flatiron/Union Square West submarket fell nearly 19%, to $355-per-square foot, in the third quarter compared with the prior year, according to an analysis by real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.

The store would offer retail items, as well as food and beverages, Mr. Bourassa said, although he did not elaborate. The proposed changes to the exterior include adding a service window on Broadway for concessions and for a future sidewalk cafe.