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REI Preserving Puck Building History at First NYC Retail Store in SoHo

REI SoHo - Main Floor

REI’s new 35,000-square-foot SoHo store is the Washington-based outdoor clothing chain’s first in New York City and one of the most interesting and accessible green building projects that you’ll come across anywhere in Manhattan- even if you’re not the hiking, biking, or climbing type. gbNYC was fortunate to receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the new three-level space before its grand opening last Friday, and we were struck by how seamlessly its design – by the Seattle-based architecture firm Callison – integrates REI’s outdoor spirit and product lines with SoHo’s urban fabric without betraying the Puck Building’s colorful history and century-old character.

REI SoHo - Flywheel

Green design features at REI SoHO are replete. The space itself revolves around an interior staircase that allows natural daylight to penetrate two floors down through the cellar level all the way to the sub-cellar level. Hanging above that staircase are two vintage 7-foot-diameter Frink reflector chandeliers, salvaged from the original building and refurbished by Robert Ogden, a Philadelphia-based chandelier restoration expert. LEDs power the fixtures, and most of the lighting throughout the rest of the store (other than the T8 fluorescents). The main level features a bike and ski stop – a first for REI in any of its 122 stores nationally – where customers can get a quick opinion on issues with bikes, skis, or snowboards. More involved issues are serviced by a full-blown shop in the sub-cellar. The cellar level also includes two historic flywheels that were once part of the steam engines that powered the original printing presses for Puck Magazine. Each is 14 feet in diameter and weighs over 9 tons. And, during the build-out, REI found over 110 stone lithograph printing tablets (pictured below) that date from the early 1900s, over 40 of which have been mounted throughout the space. Other structural materials from the deconstruction of the original space were reused and repurposed throughout. For example, wood removed from the floor by using one of the best battery powered circular saw (to create the interior staircase), while all cashier counters and interior canopies were made from wood that initially covered the space’s brick columns and ceiling. And display tables, chair railings, mirrors, shelving, display risers, seating, wall coverings, and signage – among other items – were all manufactured from the wood that REI recovered within the space during construction.

REI SoHo Lithographs

Although REI has sought – and received – LEED for Retail certification for many of its stores, the SoHo location did not pursue any rating from USGBC, primarily because of pre-existing limitations with the building’s boiler and energy systems which would have been prohibitively expensive to retrofit (but required for a LEED rating). REI’s lease at the Puck Building is for a term of 15 years, and the company worked closely with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to stay true to the space’s original design intent. The Romaneseque Revival-style Puck Building was originally designed by Albert Wagner and constructed in two parts. The wood and cast iron north section was completed in 1886 and the southern brick section in 1893: REI’s space extends through both.

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