January 31, 2023

Community members speculate on the potential of a major outdoor retailer

Architectural rendering of what the “untitled sports shop” will look like from its southwest parking lot. (Courtesy of Hillside Architects)

A proposal for an unnamed outdoor and sporting goods retail facility was discussed at a meeting of the Durango Design Review Board earlier this month, leading some to speculate whether REI will come to Durango.

The proposal calls for a 22,000-square-foot building on 2.3 acres at Turner Drive and US Highway 550. The Coca-Cola facility and Homewood Suites by Hilton are to the north of the property and the Morehart Murphy Auto Center is to the south.

The Durango Telegraph first reported on the possibility of REI coming to Durango in its January 12 issue.

REI was mentioned by Design Review Board member Blake Fredrickson during a Jan. 11 meeting, but there was no confirmation as to which retailer proposed the project due to a non-disclosure agreement between the company and the developer.

Durango community development planner Dan Armentano said he could not comment on the reasons for the non-disclosure agreement but speculated that the reason may have to do with a contract for the property.

Since the offer is in the early draft phase, the developer does not have to disclose the actual deal.

In an email to The Durango Herald On Jan. 12, REI spokeswoman Megan Behrbaum said REI had not made an announcement about a location in Durango.

Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District, said he’s heard the rumors that REI is coming to Durango, and that an unnamed downtown sporting goods store has good knowledge that the well-known outdoor retailer is coming to town.

The proposal shares similarities with other REI sites built in Colorado. The proposed renderings show a similar architectural structure and square footage to the store, which opened in Glenwood Springs in July.

A location that opened in Colorado Springs also had a similar area. The renderings of the unnamed sports store also show a building with a similar color scheme to other REI locations.

“There was a lot of speculation that it could be an REI,” Armentano said. “I think that certainly the store or rather the building design indicates something of this type of corporate design.”

The proposal is undergoing a major site plan review, which means it won’t be presented to the Planning Commission until February at the earliest. The January 11 meeting was primarily intended to evaluate the building’s design and provide comments on how the building would conform to the Design Review Board’s commercial design guidelines.

The proposed project narrative lists Hillside Architecture as a developer. Attempts to reach Hillside were made on January 12, but the herald received no reply.

“It doesn’t surprise me that a company’s sporting goods store would look at Durango based on all the stuff we love to do here,” Walsworth said.

Backcountry Experience owner Ben Rockis said he had heard rumors that the proposal would be led by a company in Texas looking for land on which to build REI stores.

Segovia Partners, a Dallas-based retail brokerage firm, provides tenant representation for REI locations in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Jack Breard is listed as the Segovia representative for these markets. the herald tried to contact Breard on Tuesday but received no response.

Regarding the possibility of REI relocating to Durango, Rockis said it would be interesting to see how a large box store would fit with Durango’s local business economy.

“They do very good business there. And when I say good deals, I mean they play by the rules,” Rockis said. “They are following vendor guidelines and are having a very positive impact on outdoor retail.”

He said competition breeds success and will make the backcountry experience better.

Walsworth said the potential emergence of REI is raising some concerns among outdoor sporting goods retailers in the inner city.

“However, we have other chain stores and company-owned stores in our community. And it seems there’s room for both, at least there has been in the past,” Walsworth said.

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