The Merchandise Mart of Chicago plans to open a luxury Kitchen, Bath & Building Design Center on its first floor in September. Open to both the trade and consumers, it will feature more than 25 boutique showrooms in an area of about 70,000 sq. ft. Some of the businesses are existing tenants and will be moved from the property's 13th floor.

The Mart boasts nearly one million square feet of mostly wholesale showrooms offering high-end home furnishings, decorative accessories, lighting and antiques, according to Katherine Flaherty, vice president/building products and special projects for Merchandise Mart Properties, which manages the building. Most of these showrooms are accessible to trade only.

"The kitchen, bath and building product showrooms are available to affluent consumers as well as the trade," Flaherty said. The move will increase visiblity for these businesses, she added.

"We run 25 trade and consumer shows a year here, mostly focused on design furnishings, giftware and crafts," said Mark Falanga, vice president/business development, Merchandise Mart Properties. "Attendees may be interior designers or wealthy consumers who come to the Mart looking for resources."

One of the new tenants will be Waterworks, headquartered in Danbury, Conn., which operates 34 stores from coast to coast. Waterworks' customers include architects, interior designers, developers, retailers, homeowners, contractors, plumbers and installers. The company will relocate from its current showroom on Wells Street in the downtown area of Chicago to an 8,000-sq-ft. showroom in the new Design Center, almost tripling its showroom size.

"We see this as the first time in Chicago that we can showcase our entire product offering," said Robert Morrison, chief operating officer of Waterworks. "Now we will be able to expand beyond our bath and kitchen merchandise to include furnishings, textiles and apothecary. We will be able to showcase significantly more tile and stone. This will be one of the largest showrooms in our chain."