BELLEVUE SHOPPING SQUARE
Bellevue Way and Northeast 8th Street
King County (Bellevue), Washington

Construction commenced on Greater Seattle's first post-war shopping hub in 1945, as the great global conflict was drawing to a close. BELLEVUE SHOPPING SQUARE was to occupy a 34.3 acre site, located 9 miles east of center city Seattle. Bellevue's Kemper Freeman, Sr. and his brother Miller wrangled permission out of the US government to build a new, morale-building movie theater, utilizing the scarce construction materials then available.

The first operational BELLEVUE business, the 560-seat Bel-Vue Theatre, opened March 20, 1946. On August 15 of the same year, sixteen stores opened, including a 1-level (76,000 square foot), Seattle-based Frederick & Nelson. This store was the first suburban shopping center branch of Chicago-based Marshall Field & Company (Frederick & Nelson having been a subsidiary since 1929).

BELLEVUE SHOPPING SQUARE became part of the newly-incorporated city of Bellevue in March 1953. Additional stores were added over the following years. J.C. Penney opened in 1955. Frederick & Nelson expanded into a 2-level (102,000 square foot) anchor store on August 8, 1956. Nordstrom's Shoes made its debut in 1958.

By the late 1960s, BELLEVUE SQUARE ("shopping" having been dropped from the official moniker) had expanded into a fifty-store shopopolis. Retailers included Clark's Crabapple Restaurant (a 1946 charter tenant), Karl Larson's Village Shoes, Florsheim Shoes, Mamselle & Mr. Paul's Hair Design, Thompson Drug, Pacific National Bank, a J.J. Newberry 5 & 10 and A & P supermarket. A 2-level (67,500 square foot) Nordstrom Best was dedicated December 1, 1967.

CROSSROADS CENTER {3.2 miles northeast, in Bellevue} was completed in 1964. Subsequent retail rivals for BELLEVUE SQUARE included TOTEM LAKE MALL (1973) {6.5 miles northeast, in Kirkland}, FACTORIA MALL (1975) {3 miles southeast, also in Bellevue} and -eventually- REDMOND TOWN CENTER (1997) {5.2 miles northeast, in Redmond}.

All the competition caused Kemper Development to embark on a total rebuild of the existing, open-air complex in 1980. The shopping center was demolished, leaving only the Frederick & Nelson and Nordstrom (Best) structures standing. A fully-enclosed mall, designed by George Wrede, was built in four phases.

The reconfigured BELLEVUE SQUARE was anchored by the aforementioned Frederick & Nelson. A newly-built, 3-level (180,000 square foot) Nordstrom was dedicated November 5, 1981. A new 3-level (180,000 square foot) J.C. Penney served its first patrons August 18, 1982. Finally, a 3-level (180,000 square foot), Seattle-based The Bon Marche ["bon mar-shay"] made its debut in August 1984. With its completion, BELLEVUE SQUARE encompassed 1,090,000 leasable square feet and one hundred and forty-five stores and services.

Frederick &  Nelson closed their BELLEVUE SQUARE store May 25, 1992. Negotiations with New York City-based Saks Fifth Avenue fell through soon after. It was decided to not lease the 185,000 square foot space to a single retailer. Instead, the area was sectioned into forty-five smaller stores, with the first opening in August 1993. Eventually there would be F.A.O. Schwarz, Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers. The basement level was refashioned into a (51,000 square foot) The Bon Marche Home Store.

Anchor stores at BELLEVUE SQUARE were refurbished in the mid-1990s. Nordstrom was expanded by 90,000 square feet (now encompassing 270,000 square feet) and J.C. Penney was enlarged into a 200,000 square foot operation.

The most recent mall expansion was completed in the year 2000. THE CORNER AT BELLEVUE SQUARE encompassed 120,000 square feet on two levels. Stores included Crate & Barrel, P.F. Chang's China Bistro and ZTejas Southwestern Grill. BELLEVUE SQUARE now spanned 1.3 million square feet and housed over two hundred stores and services.

The Bon Marche was rebranded as a Bon-Macy's in August 2003. The store received a bona fide Macy's nameplate March 6, 2005. A 40 million dollar renovation of the shopping venue got underway in 2007. No new retail area was added, but several of the major inline stores, such as Williams-Sonoma, Banana Republic and Pottery Barn, expanded into adjoining space.

Likewise, the interior of the mall was given a facelift, making it into an "urban-gardenlike" setting. New flooring, lighting, seating and landscaping were installed. The project was completed in November 2008.

J.C. Penney had operated at BELLEVUE SQUARE since 1955. The mall's circa-1982 store was shuttered November 1, 2014. The building was gutted and remade into the "South Common Shops", which housed eight retail spaces. A 1-level (30,500 square foot) 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery opened in late 2016, followed by Zara and Uniqlo boutiques.

Sources:

Eastside Heritage Center, Bellevue, Washington
http://www.bellevuesquare.com
http://www.neighborhoods.com /Bellevue Square History
http://www.historylink.org /Essay # 4143/Alan J. Stein/February 2003
"Bellevue: Its First 100 Years"/Lucille McDonald/Bellevue Historical Society, 2000
King County, Washington tax assessor website