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Outdoor giant REI planned a lush new headquarters complete with real campfires, but it's going up for sale before it has a chance to open

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/13/2020 (Isabella Jibilian)
a group of people walking in front of a brick building: Robert Alexander/Getty Images © Robert Alexander/Getty Images Robert Alexander/Getty Images
  • REI is abandoning its brand-new corporate campus in bid to save money and encourage remote work among its employees. 
  • The co-op now plans to have multiple "headquarters" locations throughout the Seattle area and expects more employees to work from home long-term. 
  • As the Covid-19 pandemic upends traditional notions of offices, REI is just one of many companies grappling with long-term decisions about office space.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

REI is putting its brand-new headquarters on the market, the company announced on Wednesday.

The 82-year-old outdoor co-operative is abandoning its eight-acre suburban Seattle campus in a bid to save money, and will encourage its 1,400 employees to work remotely for the long-term.

First planned in 2016, the expansive property was described as a "summer camp for grown-ups." The architecture firm spearheading the project, NBBJ, envisioned plenty of open-air spaces and special features like campfires and even a blueberry field.  

Renderings of the planned space revealed interiors that would be just as lush, with tables made from reclaimed sequoia wood, window walls that open onto courtyards, and a fireplace in the lobby. The company even touted an "abundance of stairs" that would help employees incorporate healthy movement into their workdays. 

Instead of the massive headquarters, REI's opting for a decentralized approach. REI will now have multiple "headquarters" locations in the greater Seattle area, it said, and will normalize working from home in the long term. The company says that the move will give employees more flexibility and allow the company to decrease their carbon footprint.

"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," said REI President and CEO Eric Artz, in press release

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, REI is far from the only company grappling with long-term decisions about office space. Facebook and Google are letting employees go remote for the next few months, while L'Oreal is forcing workers to return to the office. Real estate and architecture firms, meanwhile, are redesigning office spaces to be more pandemic friendly by reducing the density of desks and creating one-way traffic through the building. 

The sale will also bring badly needed money to REI's coffers. Despite an uptick in outdoor gear sales as Americans seek socially distant activities, the company cut 300 corporate jobs in April and said it would cut 400 retail jobs in July. Those changes, in addition to the office sale, will help the company prepare for "the near-certainty of additional disruptions,"Artz wrote in the co-op's newsletter this week. 

Potential buyers for the property include Facebook, The Seattle Times reported. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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