The REI Denver Flagship store, located in the former Denver Tramway Powerhouse building along the South Platte River, has repaid its $6.3-million tax increment financing (TIF) reimbursement nearly three years earlier than expected.

The sales tax TIF, which helped reactivate the 90,000-sq-ft building and bring REI to the Central Platte Valley, was set to expire in April 2015, per the urban renewal plan set forth by the City of Denver, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) and REI in 1998.

“The REI Denver Flagship store has been a major success since it opened in the early 2000s, playing a key role in reactivating the Central Platte Valley and Confluence Park for Denver Metro residents. The project is a prime example of the public and private sectors coming together to adapt and reuse a significant part of Denver’s history,” said Tracy Huggins, executive director at DURA. 

The historic Denver Tramway Powerhouse was built in 1901 to house boilers and engines used to generate electricity for the Denver Tramway Company rail system. Nearly 70 years later, the Forney Museum of Transportation opened in the building in 1969, housing all things transportation for Denver history buffs to enjoy for 20 years. 

In 1998 the building was sold to Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) for redevelopment into its Flagship Denver store. Envisioned as a catalyst for development in the Central Platte Valley, REI chose the site for its visibility from the highway and downtown, regional access, the historic character of the building, and proximity to the river and bike paths. 

However, the high cost of historic preservation, life-safety upgrades and environmental abatement necessary to affect the planned adaptive reuse rendered the plan financially infeasible. To allow the project to move forward, DURA provided approximately $6.3 million in sales tax TIF reimbursement to the developer, and REI opened to the public in April 2000. 

In 2011 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Noteworthy REI features include mountain bike trails, a 45-ft indoor climbing wall and trails that wind through native plants and water features.