Rei To Move From Capitol Hill Site -- Retailer Plans To Build New Store Near I-5

For three decades, REI has been an integral part of Capitol Hill's retail scene. But Recreational Equipment Inc.'s store on 11th Avenue East will close in about two years and move to a site near Interstate 5.

REI plans to move the store to Eastlake Avenue East and John Street in the Cascade neighborhood, near the Denny Way freeway exit, spokesman Michael Collins confirmed. REI has an option on a 90,000-square-foot piece of property known as the Overall Laundry site.

The move will be made to increase parking and customer access. The new store will probably have two levels of underground parking. The Capitol Hill store, REI's busiest, has limited parking.

An architect is expected to be picked this week to draw up plans for the new building. No decisions have been made yet on its size.

The Kent-based outdoor equipment and clothing company plans to improve the store's design, allowing better display of its products.

REI, founded in 1938 in Seattle, has had a store on Capitol Hill since 1962. At one time the company's mail order, administration and distribution were all handled out of that building, at 1525 11th Ave. E.

But REI, a member-owned cooperative, has grown rapidly in recent years because of the popularity of hiking, climbing and other outdoor activities. It now claims 100,000 members in the Puget Sound region and about 1 million nationally.

Last year its nationwide sales grew to $311 million, a 20 percent increase from 1991. For 1993, REI expects sales of $340 million.

The company has opened three new stores across the country this year, boosting its total to 37. Four new stores are planned in 1994.

In the Puget Sound area, REI has stores in Bellevue, Federal Way and Lynnwood. No further expansion in the Pacific Northwest is expected, Collins said.

Collins said he expects the new store to resemble the old one. "We recognize there is an attachment (by customers) to Capitol Hill. We want to have a lot of the charm and tradition people have come to expect from REI," he said.