PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) — Crime and safety concerns have led a staple business in Portland, Oregon to pack up and leave downtown. The city’s flagship REI store announced that it will be permanently closing to due crime and concerns over employee and customer safety.
The outdoor retailer has been at the location for nearly 20 years.
"The safety of our employees, members, and customers is always our number one priority. Portland has been dealing with increased crime in our neighborhood and beyond," REI said in a statement.
REI Portland says that last year the location had its highest number of break-ins and thefts in two decades, despite adding extra security.
The retailer also noted that issues with the space factored into the decision, stating "We have outgrown our current space and the building requires significant investment to address issues that we have been unable to reach agreement on with the landlord. As a result, we are not able to provide the level of customer and employee experience we strive for at REI."
The store will close in "early 2024" when the lease is up. Until then, the REI will continue to operate at the location.
KATU spoke with residents in the Pearl district about the closure.
"This is just a kick in the gut, because it’s a great store. It’s a fixture in Portland," said Gretchen Harrison.
"This is kind of like an iconic store," said Charles Raub. "You know, REI, Pacific Northwest... and I've been in here a few times and it's just it's just kind like a landmark to me."
"It sucks," said Lindsay Reed. "It just feels like there aren't a lot of people around anymore. And I think a part of that is because businesses are closing."
And residents also told KATU that unlike a few years ago, they don't feel safe anymore.
"I’m carrying mace now, which I’ve never had to do in my life," Harrison said. "I don’t feel safe in the city anymore."
"My car has been broken into--I want to say five times. Windows smashed once. I started leaving my car unlocked, and I found people sleeping in my vehicle," said Reed.
Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez released a statement Monday afternoon:
"Criminals drive another icon out of Portland despite substantial energies by our city’s economic development team to retain them. The city is investing in police officers, but we need sustained investment by public partners in criminal justice and commitment to restoring rule of law in the city of Portland. We continue to enable the drug use/theft cycle & we must reverse it to restore livability here."
With the closure of the Pearl location, the closest locations to downtown Portland include Tualatin (12 miles away), Hillsboro (12 miles away), and Clackamas (15 miles away).
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's office issued a statement Monday, saying:
“Mayor Wheeler's staff and leadership at the Portland Police Bureau have met with REI's leadership team and store representatives for several months to find ways we can collaborate on addressing retail theft, vandalism, and other safety issues. The Portland Police Bureau and other public safety partners worked with REI directly to execute a retail theft mission at their Pearl location and developed proactive safety measures, including authorizing temporary security camera trailers at their loading dock and protective measures toward the front of their store. Last week, Governor Kotek and Mayor Wheeler announced a shared commitment to advocate that the Oregon legislature increase capacity at DPSST to help get newly hired police officers on the streets more quickly. The City's Street Services Coordination Center has worked to clean up areas near the retail store to ensure customers and staff can safely visit the location. Mayor Wheeler is committed to further supporting REI to help ensure we retain their business in Portland and help them succeed. All options are on the table as we explore paths forward.”
Even though there are businesses leaving the area, there are new businesses coming in as well.
A brand new Shake Shack will be opening right across Powell's Books next week.
International Taiwanese restaurant chain Din Tai Fung is also expected to be moving into Pioneer Place in the coming months.
"Maybe it's just the way the market cycle works," said Raub. "But I hope that some of these new businesses that do decide to come in, they thrive and that Portland treats them well."