Planning permission is being sought to turn the former George Henry Lee department store in Liverpool city centre into a luxury hotel.
A change of use application has been submitted to Liverpool City Council by the building's owners Rapid Property Investments Limited.
The building, named for its former owner who turned the site from a bonnet warehouse in 1853 to a fully fledged department store, has remained a retail outlet up to the present.
Rapid's Martin Doherty said: "When we purchased this iconic building and moved the Rapid retail business, being a local, Liverpool family, we were well aware of its heritage and as such we didn't want to see such a beautiful and historic building left empty and fall into decay following the departure of John Lewis to Liverpool 1.
"The building has a very special place in the memories and affections of Liverpool people and we have been working hard to ensure its future for many years to come."
The work is being carried out with support from investment property company Williamson Holding, who ware also working on the restoration of Liverpool's art deco Gostin Building on Hanover Street.
Williamson Holding spokesperson Nick O'Prey said: "We are delighted to be partnering with the Dohertys to help them realise an exciting vision for this stunning building.
"They deserve an enormous amount of credit for their determination to preserve this important piece of Liverpool heritage. Jointly, we intend to deliver a development of exceptional quality and originality."