Patagonia's 17th Store Garners Eco-Praise

Near the bustle and clanging of downtown rapid transit tracks, Patagonia threw open the doors of its 17th store in a 1985 railroad warehouse in Portland, Ore. The warehouse had been transformed to house the company's largest shop using what is called "green techniques and materials."
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Near the bustle and clanging of downtown rapid transit tracks, Patagonia threw open the doors of its 17th store in a 189 5 railroad warehouse in Portland, Ore. The warehouse had been transformed to house the company's largest shop using what is called "green techniques and materials."

Housed in the city's Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center in the industrial-gone-upscale Pearl District, the center has been completely renovated but its flavor retained -- 95 percent of the building's original materials was retained in the new edifice.

With its opening, the building becomes the first one in Oregon to earn a "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" certificate under strict standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building was a development of the 10-year-old Ecotrust that nurtures eco-friendly businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. Ecotrust president Spencer Beebe told the throng gathered for the building's opening that the inspiration for the venture came from a conversation he had with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard during a fishing trip.

"Chouinard said the most responsible thing to do in the building business is to restore an old, existing building," Beebe said.

Inspired, Ecotrust bought the building for $2.5 million with funds donated by Portland philanthropist Jean Vollum. Vollum then went out and raised an additional $9.5 million in grants, donations and loans to get the building refurbished.

Patagonia retail expansion chief Peter Noone first met Beebe and his team of architects and designers three and a half years ago. After that meeting, things moved along slowly until a final mad rush to have everything set and ready for the Sept. 6 opening.

Speaking at the building's opening ceremonies, Portland Mayor Vera Katz praised the effort to create such a building as "a landmark effort." Portland City Commissioner and director of the City's Office of Sustainable development, Dan Saltzman, said the building and its mix of for-profit and not-for-profit tenants will "bring like-minded people together to really push the envelope."

There are a wide variety of tenants, including the non-profit Wild Salmon Center to the profitable Hot Lips Pizza, known for using only locally produced ingredients. Patagonia is the largest tenant with 7,500 square feet of retail space and an additional 1,500 square feet of storage and office space.

Patagonia's retail space occupies most of the building's street level. It shows off the building's thick restored beams and wide flooring planks to perfection. It is a clean, well-lit space with interesting touches like replicas of the WPA project furniture that graces Oregon's famous Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Working to get all in place for the grand opening were Patagonia merchandisers led by Amy Sinclair and Kathy Weitz. (click here to see photos of the grand opening celebration and store)

Fresh off the Skeena River in British Columbia, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard's opening remarks, following those of Mayor Katz and Commissioner Saltzman, drew laughs. "The most responsible thing you can do when it comes to buying clothing," Chouinard said, "is to go down and buy it at the Salvation Army. If you have to buy new stuff, please do it here."

In praising the building, as well as the foresight of the people who got the project up and running, and the people of Portland, Chouinard said, "With any retail store we do, it has to be a gift to the neighborhood."

This gift, as SNEWS® say it, seems to be well-received judging by the crowds in the store, the activity at the registers, and the number of kids and families enjoying the ceremonies.

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