Digital concept renderings offer first peek at changes coming to Woolworth's building

·4 min read

Jul. 2—They said from the beginning it was not going to be the Moneywise building. It's the Woolworth's building.

The iconic red ribbon sign was not going anywhere, they said. Neither was the Woolworth's lunch counter or the long row of windows on 19th Street that will make the first floor into a kind of transparent fish bowl, with shoppers and coffee sippers taking the place of the goldfish.

Nearly a year has passed since David Anderson and Sherod Waite, the co-owners of Moneywise Wealth Management, announced that they were buying the iconic, 1950s-era, steel-reinforced concrete structure in downtown Bakersfield, complete with its elegantly curved corner and late Moderne architecture.

Now, for the first time, Anderson, Waite and their architect, Daniel Cater, are providing readers of The Californian with a sneak peek at some digital renderings that may help bring to life their concepts of how the building might eventually look, inside and out.

"It's really a celebration of the architectural style of late Moderne," said Cater, who is clearly enamored with the building and its enormous potential.

"It is a gem in a city that has lost many of its gems," he said of the three-story design constructed in 1949.

Elements of late Moderne emerged from the Art Deco period, Cater said, but with the changing times came a shift to a more streamlined, modern look, clean but still maintaining a sense of theatricality with its curves and subtle ornamentation.

The Sill building, on the northwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue is another prominent downtown building whose architecture was influenced by the late Moderne, Cater said.

Cater, who grew up in Bakersfield, designed the 17th Place Townhomes, only a few blocks east of Woolworth's. But being involved in this latest project, he said, is a dream come true.

"It's one of those things you hope to do in your life," he said. "I feel very fortunate."

All three men cautioned readers to realize the digital images are conceptual, that the finished product will likely, almost certainly, be different, in some cases very different.

This may especially apply to the lunch counter, where the owners plan to retain the original fixtures, features and barstools.

The rendering is not a perfect reflection of that vision, said building co-owner David Anderson. "Everything that was original at the lunch counter will remain."

For example, the rendering shows four-legged stools at the counter, but in actuality, the original upholstered bar stools are treasured by the owners.

Some changes to the lunch counter are coming.

The luncheonette's checkerboard floor and the memorabilia most people are familiar with were actually added in the 1990s, Cater and Anderson noted.

"It was a caricature of the 1950s," Anderson said.

What Anderson, Waite and Cater are intent on doing is to rely more on how the lunch counter looked in the 1950s rather than the 1990s.

The design of the outside of the building depends on that same philosophy — returning the building to its roots, but avoiding turning it into a museum.

"This building will house Moneywise," said co-owner and CEO Sherod Waite. "But the things we think can happen with the building and its impact on the community is really exciting."

Except for a small reception center at the K Street entrance on the first floor, the Moneywise offices will be on the second floor.

The vision for the third floor is residential. Anderson and Waite had in mind three residences, but those plans are still in flux.

The first floor will have a market hall design, an open concept where independent local vendors will sell food or goods. A much larger and very popular example is Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.

Waite said he'd love to see many of Bakersfield's best known brands represented, maybe Dewar's or Rosemary's, possibly Smith's Bakery and Dagny's Coffee.

The expanse of windows on 19th Street will enhance the exchange of energy between those inside and those walking on the sidewalks outside.

"The idea is for people to see directly into the building. It will have a really great indoor-outdoor relationship," Cater said of the Woolworth's ground floor.

But the basement, they hope, will be a different kind of gift to the community, a place to showcase Bakersfield's musical heritage in its contemporary form. And even a studio to record local artists and musicians.

The building is a look back into the past even as it opens the community to new possibilities, Anderson said.

"Music is our favorite component of Bakersfield's history," he said, and the music-centered concept will help honor that heritage.

"Looking back, we are respecting our musical legacy," he said, "even while we move into the future."

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.