State’s first REI store coming to OKC

Published Wednesday, November 14, 2018
by Molly M. Fleming

Outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc., commonly known as REI Co-Op, will open its first Oklahoma store at the Belle Isle shopping center in Oklahoma City next fall.

The announcement comes three years after a group of Tulsa residents filed a lawsuit to stop construction of a commercial development that could have included an REI store in Tulsa along the Arkansas River. That case is still tied up in state court.

The new REI store will measure 23,000 square feet and fill the vacant Babies ‘R Us space. The Belle Isle shopping center is west of N. Classen Boulevard and is owned by Indianapolis-based Kite Realty Trust. The company purchased the center in 2015 for $51 million.

REI is a member-owned co-op, offering top-quality gear, expertise and experiences for outdoor activities. Anyone can shop at REI, but members pay a lifetime $20 membership and share in the company’s profits through an annual dividend.

Statewide, Oklahoma has 46,500 REI members.

With a wide variety of outdoor activities in the state, Oklahoma City is an exciting location for the co-op, REI Southwest Retail Director Kristen Engels said in a prepared statement.

REI works with nonprofits across the country to protect wild places and invest in spaces for outdoor recreation. The co-op annually gives 70 percent of its profits back to the outdoor community. In 2018, the co-op is investing $8.8 million in more than 400 nonprofit organizations across the country.

When the store opens, people can attend workshops or classes to learn more about outdoor activities.

There were discussions in 2015 of plans to build an REI store in Tulsa along the Arkansas River on part of Helmerich Park.

In April 2015, the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority approved selling 12.3 acres of the park to Dallas-based CBRE|UCR. The project was expected to include the state’s first REI store. Tulsa resident Craig Immel filed a lawsuit in August 2015 against TPFA, claiming the entity did not have the authority to sell the land.

At the time, the developer was planning a 50,000-square-foot shopping center, with a 27,000-square-foot outdoor sporting goods store. The speculation was that REI was the development’s anchor, but a company spokeswoman previously said it had not signed a lease in Tulsa.

A Tulsa County judge ruled in the city’s favor in April 2018. In May, Herb Beattie, Immel and other Tulsans filed an appeal. The case is ongoing.

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