ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - There's a big move coming set to change the face and, likely, the foot traffic of two separate Anchorage shopping environments, following months of speculation.
That speculation was based on whether the outdoor goods giant, REI, would be leaving its space in Spenard and relocating to space in midtown Anchorage, specifically where Carrs-Safeway used to stand at the then-"Mall at Sears."
According to an REI spokesperson who spoke with KTUU Tuesday, that move is officially a go.
"REI has finalized a lease for its new location in Anchorage, and today we can officially confirm our move to the Midtown Mall (formerly known as the Mall at Sears)," Caitlin Goettler said via email.
The 50,000 square foot space is being remodeled and REI says the grand reopening is scheduled for sometime in early 2019.
Last month, many suspected REI to take over space at the Sears mall location after Sears left, due to documents which revealed the municipality approved the construction of a sign which would read “REI Co-Op.”
Still the mall wouldn't confirm this possibility, stating that no business, including REI, had signed a lease for the available store space. According to Goettler, that's no longer the case, finalizing the lease signing paperwork on Tuesday.
Instead of renting the newly-vacant Sears department store space, as was rumored, REI will be setting up shop in the former Carrs-Safeway location.
REI's old location in Spenard will now be up for grabs, in a strip mall including Title Wave Books, Alaska Club West, and Middle Way Cafe. There is no word yet on if any business is slated to move in when REI moves out.
For REI, the move makes sense. The split-level Spenard location crammed in bikes and canoes behind a central staircase, and loaded a separate side of the store with tents and backpacks. Now, at the Midtown Mall, Goettler said the new location will change how customers approach the store overall.
"This new location will offer significant improvements to the customer experience including a refreshed look and an open layout," Goettler said.
Additionally, REI said the new location will have more parking for cars and offer indoor parking for those that bike to the store, offering added security for cyclists who currently lock up their bikes outside the Spenard-area storefront.
As for leaving their space in Spenard, Mike Herzog, REI Anchorage store manager, said in a news release that the move would be bittersweet, but overall hopes for positive results.
“We were instrumental in helping rebuild and improve the Spenard neighborhood," Herzog stated. "And much of the community here has grown around us. Our goal is to do the same through our new location in the Midtown Mall.”