Knoxville location

Hello again Mayor!

It was excellent to see you and Dawn last night at the REI – Knoxville opening. Thank you for pointing me to Jerry Stritzke.

I brought some photos and had a quick chat with Jerry about replicating the Denver “REI Flagship” retail experience in Knoxville at the Standard Knitting Mill site.

My impression was he’s interested and loved the site and idea – with the caveat that it’s unlikely he’ll open another store in Knoxville.

However – I was quick to point out this idea is not just for a store – it’d be a regional destination, a regional outdoor recreation learning center, within 5 hours’ drive of 75% of the U.S. population.

He told me he wish they’d known about the location before they chose the Papermill Plaza site – but on the plus side, now he knows about it. (And the new retail store at Papermill is beautiful, isn’t it?)

His exact words were that he really wants to push the envelope on retail locations, especially with historic buildings. His view is people will come to an REI store no matter where it is placed.

I’m attaching a PDF version of the couple of images I handed him to take a look at (REI-Vision-PDF attached).

I also printed out the original conversation and suggestion I’d sent to Gail, and wrote down the contact info for you Bill, and Dawn.

Maybe a grassroots campaign could get a replication of the success on the facility that REI collaborated on at Charlotte, N.C. – the National Whitewater Center <>?

Perhaps a National Mountain Biking Center, based in Knoxville? Standard Knitting would be an amazing location right between Sharp’s Ridge and the Urban Wilderness, with the new First Creek Greenway linking both locations. Dawn and I have also tossed around the idea that Chilhowee Park could also be an attractive location, co-sited with the zoo.

With the right partners, the possibilities are really exciting – so it’s awesome to see your pursuit of partnerships, including your attendance at the store opening last night.

Thanks again to all of you for your support of the outdoors experience in Knoxville.


Tanner Jessel
At-Large Representative
City of Knoxville Greenways Commission

1026 N. Olive Street
Knoxville, TN 37917
Term: 01/15/2013 to 01/14/2015

On Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 2:52 PM, Tanner Jessel <mountainsol> wrote:

Mayor Rogero, thank you for reaching out to welcome Gail and share the city’s enthusiasm for outdoor recreation and our Urban Wilderness.

Thanks also for CC’ing Bill.

Bill, I know you’re an “idea guy” so I do hope you’ve seen the “U.S. National Whitewater Center” that REI partnered to build with Coca Cola, Subaru, and Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec in Charlotte, N.C.

Here’s the wikipedia link:

It’s one of many whitewater parks in the U.S., but has the distinction of being the largest man-made river in the world, used for training olympiads.

If the city has a chat with REI folks, perhaps another training center, maybe “U.S. National Mountain Bike Center” could emerge in Knoxville. The city even has room for a terrain park / outdoor sports arena down at the knitting mill.

Last fall I participated in a national outdoor advocacy conference for youth outdoor leaders called “Outdoor Nation.” It’s sponsored by a broad range of outdoor equipment manufacturers united around a mission to get more youth involved in the outdoors. So, I’m confident partners and financial backing for a facility that introduces urbanites to the outdoors is there – it’s key to these outfitter’s business model that new generations continue a passion for outdoor recreation.

Thanks for lending an ear, and for your work on making Knoxville a unique place to live.


On Sat, Aug 17, 2013 at 6:48 PM, Madeline Rogero <mrogero> wrote:

Dear Gail:

I have to echo everything that Tanner has shared with you. He is right on spot with the opportunities for REI to connect with our outdoor recreation and urban wilderness opportunities and to create a flagship presence here in Knoxville.

I am thrilled that REI is coming to Knoxville and would be pleased to meet with you to learn of REI’s plans and to officially welcome you to Knoxville!

Best wishes,

Madeline A. Rogero, Mayor
City of Knoxville
PO Box 1631
Knoxville, TN 37901
865-215-3643 office

Sent from my iPad

On Aug 17, 2013, at 3:15 PM, “Tanner Jessel” <mountainsol> wrote:

Hello Gail,

Thanks for taking the time to write on a weekend.

I realize you are busy so I appreciate it.

I’m a fan of spatial data analysis so I appreciate your reasons for choosing Papermill Plaza. But I think Knoxville is a place that has some other variables at play that may not have appeared in your analysis – and I’d appreciate your considering an idea I had for REI.

The reason I wanted to talk to you is I admire REI for restoring historic properties like the Old Mill in Bend Oregon and Traction Powerhouse in Denver.

I think a similar opportunity exists in Knoxville at the former Standard Knitting Mill – a historic textile mill built in the 40s that earned Knoxville the title “the underwear capital of the world.”

Today, Knoxville’s trying to establish itself as an outdoor recreation mecca with urban trails and corridors including an “urban wildernesss“- a network of trails totaling 20 miles on 1,000 acres just across the river from downtown.

Apart from being a 10 minute drive further east for the lucrative West Knoxville market, the knitting mill has the characteristics of Papermill Plaza – plus some unique features you may not have considered.

First, it’s on the way to the Smokies for most residents of all points West headed there. Second, it’s 20 minutes west from Bass Pro Shops and exit 407 in Sevierville. It’s easily integrated into the existing downtown Knoxville shopping scene via a free trolley system – perhaps an “Outdoor Adventure Express” linking the location to Knoxville’s Waterfront. It’s right on the greenway and creek that could one day be a blueway. It’s a short hop from the “Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center” and University of Tennessee campus – also served by the free trolley system.

It’s big, highly visible off the interstate with two nearby interchanges, and has some development incentives as it’s in an “empowerment zone” with available tax increment financing.

It’s so big (over 400,000 square feet), you could have an indoor whitewater kayak circuit for people to test out equipment. So big you could install an indoor mountain bike course for teaching and trying out equipment, or synthetic ski slopes or climbing walls. Think of the U.S. National Whitewater Center (albeit on a smaller scale) and the mountain biking trails around the Denver store.

I know a big part of REI’s mission is education. I also know for REI and other outfitters to continue doing business – you need to engage young people and create a culture of outdoor enthusiasm to drive purchases of outdoor gear. At this space I’m suggesting for you, you have the room and amenities (greenway, urban wilderness, creek) to do a great outreach – plus the opportunity to lure visitors from exit 407 and serve as a launching point for Smokies excursions, or even guided trips into the Urban Wilderness.

Knoxville is pushing hard for this “outdoor adventure” identity and I think that local policy makers would want to support you on an idea like this. It’d just take a brand like REI to make it possible.

In conclusion I’d really like you to look at making something more than a retail experience in Knoxville- please look at making a retail destination – a regional landmark that draws people in to both the store and the outdoor lifestyle. Bass Pro shops is a real “pro” at that – their store at Exit 407 20 minutes east of Knoxville has an aquarium with indoor waterfall. I know that’s not exactly REI’s style, but you have an opportunity here to make something that is a regional destination, aligned with the City’s aspirations to be a regional outdoor recreation destination.

Thanks for hearing me out. I respect that you’re locked into a lease, but if the store does well and you’re open to having a “flagship” presence in the Knoxville area similar to your Denver “flagship” store, I believe the local membership and community would wholeheartedly – and I’ll even venture to guess financially via incentives or perhaps partnerships – support you.

I’m CC’ing Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and 4th District City Councilman Nick Della Volpe on this suggestion. They are familiar with me from my work on the Greenways Commission.

Thanks again and have a great weekend,


On Sat, Aug 17, 2013 at 2:17 PM, Gail Kirkland <GKirkla> wrote:

Hey Tanner,

Thank you for the email and sharing your concerns about our new store in Knoxville. As a co-op, we’re dedicated to meeting the needs of our members and I’m sorry you are not happy with the location we’ve chosen. To answer your question, we have signed a lease for this location and the decision is final.

Our real estate decisions are made internally and based on a variety of factors. For the Knoxville store, regional access to surrounding areas – like the Smoky Mountains – was especially important to us. Papermill Plaza is easily accessible from I-40/I-75 and highly visible, which also factored into our decision. Not unlike other retailers, we also consider parking and household income. Additionally, as a co/op, it’s important for us to keep in mind in the location of our member base in the market.

We are very excited about joining the community in Knoxville next year and again, I’m sorry you are unhappy with our choice of location. I do hope you will stop by once we are open and hopefully, give us a chance to serve you locally.



Gail Kirkland

Retail Director – South

Recreational Equipment, Inc.



About Tanner Jessel

I am a recent M.S. in Information Science graduate from the University of Tennessee School of Information Science. I was formerly a graduate research assistant funded by DataONE (Data Observation Network for Earth). Prior, I worked for four years as a content lead and biodiversity scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Biodiversity Informatics Program. Building on my work experience in biodiversity and environmental informatics, my work with DataONE focused on exploring the nature of scientific collaborations necessary for scientific inquiry. I also conducted research concerning user experience and usability, and assisted in development of member nodes with an emphasis on spatial data and infrastructure. I assisted with research designed to understand sociocultural issues within collaborative research communities. Through August 1, 2014, I was based at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee School of Information Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Posted on October 31, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: