Looking forward

As thousands of people walked in the shadow of the third building at World Market Center, anticipating its grand opening in July, officials at the trade show complex reveled in the success of the winter event and announced plans designed to propel the facility into an international destination for the home-furnishings industry.

Key to those plans was the appointment of Bob Maricich as the company’s new president and chief executive officer. He replaces Harvey Dondero, who resigned in August after less than a year on the job.

Maricich, who has spent the past 11 years with the Hickory, N.C.-based Century Furniture Industries, is recognized as one of the industry’s most innovative leaders. As president and chief executive officer of Century, Maricich oversaw 1,200 associates and was instrumental in building the $175 million company into one of the most admired brands. Century is among the world’s largest privately owned manufacturers of high-end residential furniture.

“This is truly an unprecedented opportunity for me to contribute to the growth and evolution of the home-furnishings industry on a global scale. I am blown away by the vision, commitment and resources the owners have dedicated to ensure World Market Center exceeds the needs of the industry,” Maricich said.

Executive committee and managing partners of World Market Center, including co-founders Jack Kashani and Shawn Samson as well as Ron Wackrow and Michael Brenner of Related Cos., said they were impressed by Maricich’s track record, innovation and management skills.

“Bob represents what World Market Center is all about,” Wackrow said. “He personifies the cutting edge, energetic spirit of World Market Center. His personal understanding of what our audience wants and needs makes him the ideal person to run our operation and continue its evolution to 12 million square feet in a few short years.”

In addition to his tenure at Century, Maricich has served on the American Furniture Manufacturers Association board of directors and most recently was the past chairman of the executive committee. He also was appointed by the governor of North Carolina to be chairman of the North Carolina Furniture Export Council, a position he held from 2000 to 2004.

At the same time that World Market Center is welcoming a new leader at the helm, it is losing a key player who has been involved with the facility long before any construction began at the downtown location.

Dave Palmer, who has been general manager since 2001, retired at the end of last week’s winter market, but will continue to serve as a consultant.

“Of my four decades in the home-furnishings industry, I couldn’t be more pleased to have my career culminate with such an exceptional project. Retiring will allow me to focus on other passions and, most importantly, on enjoying more time with my family,” he said.

“As the first member of the great team at World Market Center, we are grateful for his role in inspiring the industry to be a part of this market,” Kashani said. “We are also excited that Dave will continue as a consultant to WMC through the coming years as we fulfill our total vision of building the world’s largest trade complex dedicated to home furnishings.”

Upon his retirement, he was presented with a Vision Award, an annual honor presented by World Market Center to recognize those who share the vision and work toward making advances in the industry.

Before joining World Market Center, Palmer spent four years as executive vice president of R.C. Wiley Home Furnishings and five years as president of the San Francisco Mart.

As preparations continue to ready the 2.1 million square-foot Building C for its opening, leasing is set to get under way in March for the fourth building. The 1.1 million square-foot building will feature 17 floors; construction will begin later this year, with completion scheduled for early 2010.

Plans call for the new structure to house U.S. furniture companies on the upper seven floors, while devoting six floors to the gift and home textiles arenas.

According to Babs Blair, vice president of leasing, the presence of the gift and home accessory category, which includes products such as tabletop, stationery, candles, garden, holiday/seasonal and floral, will benefit buyers by allowing them to blur the line between home décor and giftware.

Also planned is a floor of decorative accessories and lighting.

The two first floors are slated to be used as temporary flex space, allowing for as much as 150,000 square feet of temporary exhibits. Project officials also plan to use the space on a year-round basis holding special events and industry exhibits as well as leasing the floors to outside groups.

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