Downtown Gardens snares outdoor giant REI

Palm Beach Gardens and Tallahassee will be sixth and seventh Florida stores for Seattle-based co-op.

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REI at Downtown Gardens

Downtown Palm Beach Gardens landed a destination anchor store Tuesday in REI Co-op, an outdoors outfitter known for its sporting goods, excursions and profit-sharing.

REI would open in spring 2022, filling 25,000 square feet vacated by Urban Outfitters and TooJay’s Deli. It would be the Seattle-based co-op’s seventh Florida store and second in South Florida. 

Downtown, just west of the Gardens Mall, is undergoing a vast transformation under new ownership with extensive construction and the addition of a Life Time health club to go with existing anchors Whole Foods Market and a 16-screen movie theater.

REI enters the market after Dick’s Sporting Goods failed to take over the second floor of the Sears store at the neighboring Gardens Mall, a proposal that has spawned lengthy litigation.

The tower housing the escalator on the west side of Downtown Palm Beach Gardens is halfway torn down in this Feb. 5, 2021, photo. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

REI, which opened its first Florida store in Jacksonville in 2013, announced new stores in Gardens and Tallahassee on Tuesday. It opened its first South Florida store west of Boca Raton in November. It also has Florida stores in Gainesville, Tampa and Winter Park.

The stores offer a wide range, from apparel and shoes to snow skis, camping gear and bicycles. Its new Florida stores will have a full-service bike shop.

Recent online listings showed Volkl M5 Mantra snow skis marked down to $559, a Kelty Shake Maker 2 Shelter tent for $149 and $20 for a pair of Keen Moxie Sport MJ Shoes for Kids.

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Shoppers pay $20 for a lifetime membership. The company, founded in 1938 as Recreational Equipment Inc., said it has 391,000 members in Florida, up more than 75 percent since 2013.

Nationally, it has 20 million members, nearly 15,000 employees and 168 locations in 39 states.

“We’re here to serve both locals and visitors who are drawn to Florida’s climate and incredible natural places to be active,” the store’s southern regional director, Gail Kirkland, said in the press release announcing the Gardens and Tallahassee plans.

Two Palm Beach County stores

The move is particularly interesting since REI is known as a destination store, meaning shoppers will travel long distances to visit. 

But two stores in the same county indicate a shift in the company’s thinking, said commercial real estate broker Neil Merin. 

“Instead of unique location, they’re increasing their numbers,” he said. 

While the store is especially appealing to young shoppers, it should still drive a lot of traffic to Downtown Gardens, Merin said. 

As a member-owned co-op, REI shares annual profits with its members and invests in local communities, its press release said.

It partners with nonprofits to steward and maintain local trails and public lands, the company said.

It listed more than $300,000 in contributions to Florida land agencies and nonprofits over the past nine years, including contributions this year to the Florida State Parks Foundation, Florida Trails Association and Friends of Alafia State Park in Tampa.

Downtown, a popular destination for restaurants and live music, has been undergoing a renovation of its main walkways since last summer, including the removal of the escalator next to the former TooJay’s space.

Among restaurants, it features The Cheesecake Factory, Yard House and the new Voodoo Bayou.

  • Downtown Palm Beach Gardens
  • Life Time Athletic

Owner Shopcore Properties expects to complete construction this summer. 

Also under construction is the 117,000-square-foot Life Time Athletic health club, which will offer exercise classes, spa services and a rooftop swimming pool. 

A 426-space parking garage is going up west of Life Time. 

And on Tuesday, Shopcore brought its initial proposal to the city’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals board for a 281-unit apartment building and a 174-room hotel. The placement of those buildings on the 49-acre site was not disclosed.

© 2021 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

Author: Joel Engelhardt

Joel Engelhardt is an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor based in Palm Beach Gardens. He spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business, including 28 years at The Palm Beach Post. As a reporter, he covered countywide growth, the 2000 election and the birth of Cityplace in West Palm Beach. As an editor, he oversaw probes into the opioid scourge, private prisons, police-involved shootings and more. For seven years, he worked on the paper’s editorial board. Joel left The Post in December 2020. He and his wife, Donna, have lived together in Palm Beach Gardens since 1992.

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