Efforts to bring REI Co-Op, a popular outdoor retail store, to Tulsa suffered another setback last week.
A developer’s plan to build a commercial project in Tulsa with an REI store tentatively slated to anchor the project has been stuck in state court for three years. Meanwhile, the retailer has moved on and announced last week that it will be opening its first Oklahoma store in Oklahoma City, not Tulsa.
But the issues surrounding the controversial plan in Tulsa don’t mean the retailer won’t come to the Tulsa metropolitan area, which is home to nearly a million people, many of whom are outdoor enthusiasts.
A spokesperson for Recreational Equipment Inc. told the Tulsa World he does not currently intend to set up a store in Tulsa. But, more importantly, the retailer also hasn’t said it won’t be coming to Tulsa.
The company’s reluctance to say more is understandable, given the case is now before the state’s Supreme Court. The problem is the site of the commercial development, part of Helmerich Park at the southwest corner of Riverside Drive and 71st Street.
The Tulsa group of plaintiffs, which includes former mayor Terry Young, say the city does not have the legal authority to sell the park land to the Dallas company wanting to develop the project. The plaintiffs want the park to be preserved.
In April, a district court judge ruled that the city of Tulsa had the legal right to consider the site abandoned and sell the property to the Dallas developer, who is still interested in building the commercial project as originally planned.
If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s ruling, the project could go ahead, as the city has spent years trying to convince REI to come to Tulsa.
In our opinion, Oklahoma is a mecca of opportunity for outdoor junkies and is large enough to accommodate two REI sites. Additionally, Oklahoma has 46,500 REI members, who have paid $ 20 for a lifetime membership and share the company’s profits through an annual dividend.
The 23,000 square foot Oklahoma City store will open next fall in Belle Isle Station Mall near Penn Square Mall. Oklahoma City is a great place for REI and sales tax revenue will be a boon to the city.
But we don’t think REI’s decision to locate a store in Oklahoma City means Tulsa has lost its chance to get a REI store. The developer’s optimism and the retailer’s restrained remarks could be a sign that REI may announce its second Oklahoma location in the not-too-distant future.