They Love DC but REI has “not finalized the decision” to come to the Uline Arena

1146 3rd Street, NE

From Tim Spangler, senior vice president of Retail for REI:

“We love the DC area and we are delighted there’s excitement about talk that we’re looking at Uline. We have been talking with the developer, but need to clarify that we have not finalized the decision. We need the perfect location to create a unique and inspiring space for our members and the community, so we will let you know when we have more details to share.”


19 Comment

  • I think the address should be NE right?

  • andy

    well TGI Fridays in Columbia Heights closed so that space should be available.

  • That’s what you call, in corporate parlance, lowering expectations.

  • The Uline arena resurrection can certainly create a very unique and inspiring space. My guess is that is this part of a leverage play by REI in their negotiations with the developer to make the REI retail space as interesting as possible. Good for them, the plan to turn so much of this space into offices does seem to have the potential to turn such a unique historic building into another boring commercial building.

    • Yup. I’m hoping that this is the case as well. This would be their flagship store for the DC region. As such, they can’t afford a boring/lame space. Hopefully this places some pressure on Douglas to allow for an awesome buildout.

  • They have put flagships in odd locations, including Seattle. The one in Denver is really on the edge of downtown area. They don’t necessarily seem to care about having a lot of adjacent retail.

  • maxwell smart

    I can’t speak for this specific site, but having worked with developer’s on other sites in DC looking to land large anchor tenants, this all comes down to $$$ – a larger anchor tenant like REI would require X amount of dedicated parking spaces – this would be in addition to parking for other retail, office and residential tenants. A parking space has a price tag (a rather large on at that) and the developer has to weigh the value of parking vs. tenant – will said anchor tenant be worth the expense of the parking? It’s a tricky balance – if the anchor tenant bails or doesn’t have the expected draw, the developer stands to lose a lot of money on parking when they could have skipped the risk, put in a bunch of smaller tenants with fewer parking needs and come out in the clear. Given that REI sells a lot of merchandise better suited to car transport, I could easily see them having a demand for dedicated parking.

    • This is right next to a metro station, so I hope that their risk/reward calculations take the metro/parking demand into account. Uline space was rented as a parking lot until recently, so they should have a pretty solid understanding of how much parking the area demands as is.

      • maxwell smart

        while metro accessibility may be a factor in off-setting code required parking spaces, many anchor tenants see a lack of available parking as potentially driving away customers. Considering the tenant in question is REI that sells a lot of equipment that would be difficult to transport via metro, I could easily see them having a particular demand for parking. This would also support why most of the “flagship” stores people are mentioning are indeed not in an urban core but on the outskirts where availability of parking is much, much easier. It’s not to say there are not REI’s without parking – there’s 1 right in the heart of SoHo.

        • I was in REI tonight and the biggest thing anyone carried out was a couple of shirts. It’s not as though you never see a backpack on Metro. Bikes might be an issue, but aren’t there bike paths nearby? Or coming soon? I’ve updated all my camping equipment w/o taking a car to an REI and I think the tent (special order) was the only thing that came by mail. They do have a flagship in NYC on Lafayette Street with more gear than any store in the DC ‘burbs. I’ve been to the flagship in Seattle multiple times and don’t recall seeing a big parking lot. The one in Denver is a big biking destination. Target and BBB sell all kinds of awkward stuff and the parking facility at DCUSA is a white elephant… it’s not difficult to punch holes in this “you must have a car stuff”.

          • Actually, it’s right on the MBT. And you can bring a bike on the metro, as long as it’s not rush hour. A kayak, on the other hand, might need private vehicular transport.

  • Their store in Seattle is amazing, it even has a whole mountain bike test trail around it, but the location is in no-man’s land on the edge of downtown.

    • Its no longer no man’s land since Amazon took over South Lake Union.

      • No no, i stand by it, i’m there a lot! 🙂 It’s dead retail and foot traffic wise, especially on weekends. But there’s always a line for the parking garage, it’s a car coast for sure.

        • I’ll give you it’s a desert for foot traffic compared to the Hill, Pike-Pine, Fremont, but that neighborhood has grown and increased in daytime foot traffic in the last five years – much different than when REI opened. If it had to open downtown it couldn’t have afforded to build the store it did. I hate that garage so much I prefer to walk instead.

  • Come somewhere near the Atlantic Plumbing and future 965 Florida Ave development instead!

  • Well I don’t think the store in a stripmall on Rockville Pike is necessarily a “unique and inspiring space for our members and the community” but they must have differences in placing a flagship store like those mentioned in Seattle & Denver versus a regular, run of the mill store. If they could have the whole Uline building- put in rockwalls, bike tracks, etc it certainly would be a regional draw (and awesome), so perhaps they are looking for more of a flagship space in DC?

  • According to plans that the developer has shared with the neighborhood, there will be a parking garage that is built next to/under the Uline arena. This will serve for the potential REI and the office spaces.

    • Exactly. Douglas Developments’ plans allow for a two or more storey car park garage on the 3rd and L side of the Uline. Having a flagship REI in this space would be fantastic – the right balance between character and location. What’s more, the location is close in to downtown and if we look at the plans that Edens has for the nearby Union Market development (so much retail store stuff planned), combined with the retail to be offered on H St NE and Burnham Place/Union Station, this area will become a shopper’s dream. Also, with the increased density in this part of town, I think foot traffic will be higher than some imagine.

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