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Outdoor retailer REI plans to open store in Columbia's BullStreet District this August

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REI at BullStreet traffic cones 2

REI, the first major national retailer to come to the BullStreet District, was almost set to open before COVID-19 shut down Columbia.

Outdoor retailer REI will open its Columbia location at the BullStreet District in August, bringing the site's first major retailer there after a delay of several months because of coronavirus closures.

The opening will at last kick off the retail development phase of the huge project at the former Department of Mental Health site. A Starbucks and an outpost of the Iron Hill brewpub chain also are slated to come to the site in 2021. 

The opening had been expected in May, but all locations of the REI co-op have been closed since March 16. No specific date for the Columbia opening was announced, but the store had been hiring staff before the pandemic shut activities down.

The company will reopen its first locations in Montana and gradually, as conditions allow, continue with stores across the rest of the country, the company said in a statement. The Greenville location of REI at 1140 Woodruff Road will allow curbside delivery as the company brings that service to about half of its U.S. locations by mid-May.

An REI opening would give Columbians an added reason to visit the BullStreet District, which currently is without Columbia Fireflies baseball to draw crowds. The only restaurant that has opened on the site, the full-service Bone-In Barbeque, closed in February.

While retail openings on the site have had to wait, construction on multiple projects at BullStreet has continued through the coronavirus pandemic, developer Robert Hughes said earlier this year.

“BullStreet is going to be making a lot of progress over these quiet months and then as soon as everyone can come out and enjoy, they are going to see a whole lot of change, a whole lot of new things inside the district," Hughes said.

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