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REI to open ‘Wild Mile’ riverfront store, offer paddleboard and kayak rentals

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It’ll be REI’s second Chicago waterfront space

REI

REI Co-op will open a new store early in 2019 along the banks of the Chicago River within the city’s Wild Mile at the North Branch canal, the outdoor gear and apparel retailer announced on Wednesday.

The new two-story, 40,000-square-foot space will offer paddleboard and kayak rentals; a bike, ski, and snowboard shop; a wider selection of gear; and bike and car parking, REI said. The Lincoln Park store at 1466 N. Halsted Street will move to its new location at 905 W. Eastman Street, an industrial building which is currently being remodeled. The space is bigger by 10,000 square feet and will also have an outdoor patio.

REI

“The relocation of our Lincoln Park store will help us better connect people in Chicago to a life outdoors,” Mike Daurio, REI Lincoln Park store manager, said in a statement. “When complete, our new Lincoln Park location will be one of the co-op’s most exciting retail spaces.”

The city plans to complete the Wild Mile later this year—it includes a canal boardwalk right by the new REI store, fishing stations, walkways, vegetative islands, canoe launches and aims to improve natural habitats for wildlife. The improvements are funded by $250,000 in Open Space Impact Fees and part of the larger North Branch Framework Plan.

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This will be REI’s second waterfront space along the Chicago River. The REI Boathouse at Ping Tom Memorial Park currently offers paddleboard classes, rentals, and Outdoor School programs.

One of REI’s goals is to “make the outdoors accessible for all,” and it’s doing that on a local level. This year REI gave $230,000 to Chicago nonprofits including Friends of the Chicago River, Urban Rivers, and Friends of the Forest Preserves. Chicago is also one of five cities part of the company’s Rewilding Projects which focus on rebuilding urban space into areas for outdoor recreation. It is helping to develop the Big Marsh into one of the biggest mountain bike parks in the country.