Photo: © J.T. Magen
Photo: © J.T. Magen

Primark’s U.S. debut store construction in Boston leads to five more projects for J.T. Magen

When European clothing company Primark decided to enter the American market, they chose an iconic department store for their first location – Filene’s in Boston. Completed in 1912, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of the best examples of Beaux Arts architecture in the city. J.T. Magen won the contract for the new store covering four floors and 100,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

“Pre-war structures always present unique construction challenges,” says James Keenaghan, project manager. J.T. Magen not only conquered the upgrade challenges, but embraced the smallest details to ensure client satisfaction, such as sourcing an antique clock specialist to modify the clock face with Primark’s name. The successful store launch led to five additional Primark store projects around the northeast for J.T. Magen.

Meeting the challenges

One of the biggest challenges at the Boston flagship was getting all of the MEP/mechanicals into the landmarked building, says Keenaghan.

“We had to close the street to traffic during the night, set up a boom crane at 1 a.m. and lift equipment for a few hours before the morning traffic started up again and dawn disassembly was required.” The operation went on for nearly four weeks.

“We lifted tons and tons of massive chillers, heat exchangers and air handling equipment. We had to break it all down into sections, and insert the equipment sections through window openings and onto interior platforms in order to complete the installation,” Keenaghan explains.

Weather was another major factor: “It was one of the toughest winters on record in New England with enough snow emergencies to add up to three weeks of lost work time,” says Keenaghan. “But we made up the time, and the store opening happened on schedule with the Mayor of Boston cutting the ribbon.”

Satisfaction and recognition

Keenaghan’s job satisfaction kicks in after move-in day. “I like walking into a finished project and realizing that no one present knows what went on behind the scenes to get it done. I feel like I’ve achieved something,” he says.

Subsequently, J.T. Magen completed two additional Primark stores in Massachusetts, two in Pennsylvania and one on Staten Island, for a combined total of 470,000 sq. ft. of space for the international retailer.

Primark’s King of Prussia retail store built by J.T. Magen won three top international industry awards. It won top Specialty Store over 25,000 sq. ft. in the Shop! Design Awards, and top Soft-Line Specialty Store in the Retail Design Institute’s Store Design Competition. Designed by Gensler, it also won the Façade Innovation Award from the Retail Design Institute.