TAMPA — Specialty outdoor retailer REI Co-op will open its first store on the west coast of Florida at the $550 million Midtown Tampa project near West Shore, developers said Thursday.
“It’s a huge get," said Nicholas Haines, chief executive officer of the Bromley Companies, the developer for the 22-acre project near N Dale Mabry Highway and Interstate 275. “In an uncertain retail environment, REI is one of the most successful larger format retailers in the country.”
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REI will open its 22,500-square-foot store on the Dale Mabry spot where developers have begun tearing down the old Men’s Wearhouse. That will put it at the base of the seven-story Midtown One office building, next to the new Whole Foods Market.
“Those two brands in some ways are very similar and represent the active lifestyles we’re looking for in Midtown,” Haines said.
Work on the $72 million Midtown One project is expected to start in October. REI at Midtown will open in early 2021, the same time as Midtown Tampa’s office building, 400 apartments, Whole Foods and a dual-branded Aloft and Element hotel.
In addition to outdoor gear, REI’s Tampa store will feature a specialty bike shop and in-store workshops on a wide range of outdoor activities.
REI expects to hire up to 45 employees for the new Tampa store. The company’s benefits include product and service discounts, retirement contributions and two paid “Yay Days” that allow employees to enjoy outdoor activities, plus an additional paid day off on Black Friday to spend time with family and friends as part of REI’s #OptOutside initiative.
“Tampa is an incredible community to continue our mission to connect local REI members to the outdoor places and activities they love,” REI regional director for the south Gail Kirkland said in an announcement released through Bromley. “Whether our members are paddling the Hillsborough River or taking a short walk from our store along the Watercourse trail, we can help them prepare for any kind of adventure.”
The Watercourse, a recreational trail measuring a third of a mile, is meant to give Midtown residents, workers and visitors a chance to walk, bike or jog around the 3-acre Midtown Lake, which will include a pier and a dock. With a spot next to the lake, REI will be able to let customers test ride a bike, try out a kayak on the water or drop a fishing line into the lake, which, yes, Haines said, is home to fish.
The nation’s largest consumer cooperative, REI is a member-owned co-op with more than 300,000 members in Florida. Anyone can shop at REI, but members pay $20 for a lifetime membership and share in the company’s profits through an annual dividend.
“REI has been part of our vision for Midtown since the beginning, especially with the company’s significant membership base in Florida,” Haines said. 'It’s going to provide a great experiential retail feel that I think people will be really excited about."
REI invests more than 70 percent of its profits in outdoor causes such as support for nonprofits involved in stewardship of trails and public lands, and connecting people to the outdoors. This year, REI is contributing $140,000 to Florida-based outdoor nonprofits that include the Florida Trail Association and the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association’s Florida Chapter. The co-op said it plans to invest further in the local outdoor community as it gets closer to opening the Tampa store.
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Based near Seattle, REI has 155 stores in 35 states. It opened its first Florida store in Jacksonville in 2013 and its second in Winter Park in 2017.