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Steel
Friday | 29 June, 2012 | 11:25 am

Reconstructing history

By Julie Sammarco

A company specializing in steel alterations helps turn a historic building into retail space

June 2012 - Branding often is an important marketing tool to help companies attract customers and keep them coming back. REI, an outdoor gear and clothing company, has a brand mission to connect its customers to the outdoors.

In December 2011, the company opened shop in the historic, 150-year-old Puck Building, located in New York’s Soho neighborhood, it needed to remodel the space to fit the brand and still maintain the building’s historic feel.

The Puck Building owners called on Hallen Steel Co., Long Island City, N.Y., a company that specializes in structural steel alterations, to rework the space for REI. The project required detailed and creative work. The company restored structural steel and cast iron for the store’s monumental staircase, wall openings and the building’s exterior.

This project, which earned a 2012 A.R.E Design Award, combines modern-day retail appeal and rustic, distressed and industrial architecture.

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Reworking the space
The most intricate part of the project was the staircase, which became the focal point of the space. Hallen Steel detailed, surveyed, delivered and erected it at the REI store.

“The cast iron stairs had a series of glass pucks on each stair that needed to be removed,” says Bill Sandie, CEO of Hallen Steel. “We removed the pucks and cleaned out each hole and prepared it for a new puck. We had to weld repair, cast-iron weld repair and then treat each new weld with certain chemicals and waxes to bring out a patina that made the welds look like they were 150 years old. Then the pucks were set with epoxy and put back in and the piece was reinstalled in the Puck Building.” The company also did the cast iron work on the outdoor steps in front of the building.

Originally built in the late 1800s, the Puck Building was the printing facility of J. Ottmann Lithographing Company and Puck Magazine, which ceased publication in 1918. The building went through numerous renovations since the 1980s. Recent renovations have made space for retailers like REI.

Through renovations, the owners continued to keep the building true to its original architecture, especially with the staircase. They not only wanted the staircase to look like the original, they also wanted to keep the glass pucks, which were a common design treatment in Soho.

There were two other pieces of the retail space that required structural steel—the portals. The portals are the openings from one retail space to another to allow shoppers to move freely between them.

“We fabricated and erected about 20 tons of steel for the openings,” says Sandie. “We used several beams and cover plates with bolted features. Details included very precise cuts of fitted plates. We used a lot of welders, plasma cutters, bending machines, saws, punching, folding and shearing machines for those portals.”

Although much of the work on this project was done by hand, there was a portion that Hallen Steel did using automation. “All the plates were done by CNC, some of the beams were cut with automated equipment. But there was a lot of hand grinding, sanding and polishing,” he says.

Out of the several projects Hallen Steel does each year, Sandie says this was one of the more interesting because it allowed the company to work on an architectural landmark. “Having the responsibility to do great work … and keep the integrity of that building was a big responsibility. But we we met a very demanding schedule and our workers did a great job.” MM

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