Specialty outdoor retailer REI Co-op plans to set up a camp in Issaquah.
The company announced Wednesday that it plans to lease a recently completed 70,000-square-foot office building along Interstate 90.
Terms for the 2005 Poplar building (named for its address) were not released. Issaquah-based Rowley Properties developed and owns the structure, which features unique design elements such as a cross-laminated timber roof, top-floor ceiling, soffits, and a glass-enclosed stairway fronting I-90. The building’s interior includes light fixtures made of recycled cardboard as well as bike lockers and showers for pedaling commuters.
REI’s name will be on the side of the building facing I-90, according to Kari Magill, CEO of Rowley, which had offered the building for one or more tenants.
The lease marks the first of REI’s future satellite offices as part of a new distributed work model it announced last August, when it said it planned to sell its newly constructed Bellevue headquarters campus, which Facebook purchased the next month.
REI said then that the move away from a central campus would spread its headquarters staff across multiple sites, allow flexibility and remote work, and reduce REI’s carbon footprint.
REI’s reimaging of work came as the COVID-19 pandemic altered traditional work models everywhere. In a video conference with employees last summer, REI President and CEO Eric Artz said, “The dramatic events of 2020 have challenged us to reexamine and rethink every aspect of our business and many of the assumptions of the past. That includes where and how we work. As a result, our new experience of ‘headquarters’ will be very different than the one we imagined more than four years ago.”
REI said Wednesday that it plans to test a model that will allow employees to work from home up to five days a week.
“We believe the future of work is much more fluid,” Chris Putur, REI’s executive vice president of technology and operations, said in Wednesday’s news release. “We’re building the future around the work that needs to get done, and creating flexible, agile, and inclusive ways to deliver innovation for our customers — and we no longer believe we need a traditional office model to do so.”
This Issaquah office is the first of several planned satellites around the Puget Sound area, REI said, noting 2005 Poplar is surrounded by trail networks and located between Lake Sammamish State Park and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, with easy access to I-90 and public transit. REI will use the Issaquah site to test technology and prototype digital and physical spaces that unlock collaboration for people spread across a variety of locations, it said.
While some essential on-site roles will require physical office space, most employees will have much more flexibility in where they work, the release said. Instead of dedicated workspaces, each employee can choose the combination of locations that best suits their role, work, and team on a given day — including satellite offices, coffee shops, home offices, or local parks, it added.
“This will require us to adopt a completely different way of thinking, as we design a model that ensures every employee is just as engaged, connected, and productive, whether they’re working from a home, improvised or REI office,” Putur said. “We see incredible possibility in this future — and we’re giving ourselves space to go explore it.”
Halley Knigge, a spokesperson for REI, said timing of the move into Issaquah is pandemic-dependent, with employees’ health and safety the top priority. But initial timing could be late-summer.
REI listed the building’s capacity as up to 400 people, post-pandemic.
Rowley’s Magill welcomed REI to the Eastside.
“We knew that 2005 Poplar would make a great home for the right business(es) but we are especially honored to welcome REI Co-op to Issaquah and our Hyla Crossing neighborhood where our theme is, ‘Let Your Nature Begin,’” she wrote in an email. “REI is an organization whose values and priorities are centered on the well-being of its workforce, its ties to a community, and shared love of the outdoors. The brand really resonates with Issaquah, and REI’s presence at the ‘gateway to Issaquah’ is a bold step toward realizing our community’s (and our neighborhood’s) vision. We are so pleased to welcome REI to Issaquah.“
REI adds another recognizable name along I-90 in Issaquah. About a mile east, Costco Wholesale Corp. is building new office space and a parking garage at its corporate headquarters on the other side of the highway from REI.