Sneak Peek: REI SoHo at 303 Lafayette Street

Posted on: November 16th, 2011 at 6:43 am by

From street level, it doesn’t seem as though much has changed. After all, the Puck Building is designated a landmark and drastic alterations must be met with board approval (just look at the trouble Kushner’s rooftop condo conversion project is encountering). Nevertheless, REI SoHo at 303 Lafayette completely and totally re-imagined the former first floor catering hall and its two cellars. Lucky for us, company brass opened the doors early for a sneak peek and tour.

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Verdict – REI sure delivered, tastefully occupying the ample square-footage (39,000) with a strict appreciation of building history. Recycling is the key word here. Much of the leftover components from the gut renovation were utilized elsewhere. For instance, after contractors broke through the floors, original wood boards were re-purposed for various uses, including the stairways connecting each level (which also boast topographical maps etched in glass), select wall paneling, and scattered tables.

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The ground level will consist of the main “hard goods” camping gear (packs, sleeping bags, tents), seasonal items, and a quick-stop bike hub near the entrance. The latter will offer cyclists the ability to purchase quick provisions on the go, gear check-ups, or air.

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The cellar space houses all the “soft goods,” items like jackets, clothes, and footwear.  And in our opinion, this is the true highlight of the store.  This particular level is well preserved and sorta feels like a museum.  It is here that, for the first time in public, patrons will have access to the original Corliss steam-powered flywheels that once powered the printing presses of the Puck Building.  Just so impressive to see.  Around the corner, wall plaques describe the importance of the machinery.

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A mural honoring REI founders Mary and Lloyd Anderson graces the nearby exposed-brick wall.

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And one level below, in the sub-cellar, we have the full-service bike shop.  This part of the store will surely give boners to all the cyclists out there.  But the mechanic shop also services skis and snowboards.  Across the way is also a community events room where press events and whatnot can be held.

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Meanwhile, delivery of merchandise begins today and will continue for the rest of the week.  We are told that a soft open is currently scheduled for next Tuesday, with an official launch pegged at December 2.  That inaugural weekend, REI SoHo will celebrate with sales, giveaways, and contest prize packs.

Full gallery tour (click thumbnail):

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