October 25, 2004

REI: Flagship Store Vs. Framingham Store

Maybe you've been to the REI store in Framingham, off Rte. 30 in one of the most pedestrian-hostile areas of town. Trying to get there by foot from the other side of the street is an adventure, although not exactly the kind of excitement that the outdoor-gear retailer has in mind.

It's a typical suburban-sprawl kind of place, set back from the road, offset by unlandscaped asphalt.

But their flagship store in Seattle sure sports quite a different look -- it's surrounded by a half-acre of beautifully landscaped forest, complete with waterfall.

"For most stores, the landscape consists of little more than a parking lot or garage and perhaps a few pots of seasonal flowers, a small investment compared with the building itself. But the forest surrounding REI stretches over 21,000 square feet, even though code required less than 3,000 square feet of landscaping. The waterfall alone cost more than $100,000," the Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest magazine reports.

Project manager Greg Brower explained: "Even though it's a retail store, it's all about the outdoors."

Well, in Seattle maybe. Certainly not in Framingham.

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