Developer Plans Luxury Area for Bellevue, Wash.

Feb. 26--Kemper Freeman is known for thinking big, and his new plans for downtown Bellevue are no exception.

The developer is poised to expand his Bellevue Square mall with a new luxury wing of upscale shops and six-story boutique hotel and build a towering retail, office and condo development across the street.

One of the Northwest's first suburban malls, Bellevue Square is now one of the busiest shopping centers in the West, drawing 16 million shoppers a year to its high-end shops.

The new projects would add 130,000 square feet of luxury retail to Freeman's already booming "Bellevue Collection" -- which includes Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square and Bellevue Place -- and 6,000 free parking spaces to the 10,000 he already offers.

Freeman said the bullish economy and retail market pushed him to proceed.

With projects already under construction or in the pipeline, Bellevue Way is on its way to becoming the tall, ritzy retail strip that Freeman has envisioned for years. He cites Chicago's Magnificent Mile and Boston's Newbury Street as his inspirations.

Downtown Bellevue "is the place where people's ... dreams are coming true at a record pace," Freeman said, referring to the rapid growth of the past few years.

Much of the planned development would be completed by 2010, although timelines for projects could change depending on market fluctuations, said Dan Meyers, vice president of design and construction for Kemper Development. Some project details such as cost and, in some cases, start times, are yet to be pinned down.

"We always build things based on the market," Meyers said.

Here's what's planned:

--In June, Freeman will begin remodeling the interior of Bellevue Square, with new entryways, floors, lighting and ceiling treatments, and new finishes to the stairways and elevators. The project should be done in fall 2008.

--A new luxury wing, with small boutique-style stores, will replace the parking area at the southeast corner of Bellevue Square, between Macy's and JC Penney. The wing would front on Bellevue Way and include underground parking and a 180-room boutique hotel. The first phase is expected to open in fall 2009, Freeman said.

--Across the street, where an older Safeway store still operates, the second phase of Lincoln Square will take shape and could open in fall 2010. The development will be the "fraternal twin" to the first phase of Lincoln Square, with condo and office towers and luxury retail, Meyers said.

--Freeman has already announced two major projects on the Bellevue Place superblock, all of which he owns. Construction starts this summer on a 20-story tower at the Hyatt Regency, with 351 rooms, to be completed in April 2009.

And Freeman donated the land for a 2,000-seat performing-arts center on the northeast corner of the block. The center is also set to open in 2009.

Meyers said Freeman has long-term plans for a condo tower, with retail below, for the northwest corner of the block, now the site of Wendy's.

The dense, street-level retail future of Bellevue Way doesn't stop with Freeman.

AvalonBay Communities, based in Virginia, is building a seven-story building with 368 apartments and 72,000 square feet of retail, just south of the second phase of Lincoln Square. Avalon Meydenbauer will have two floors of retail, including a Northwest flagship Safeway, and is set to open late next year.

Since Bellevue Square opened in 1946 with 16 stores, Freeman and his family have reinvented the mall to fit with changing tastes. Freeman enclosed the open-air mall in the 1980s and doubled its size to 200 stores, against the advice of some leading developers.

In 2000, he built The Corner at Bellevue Square, with upscale shops that fronted on the street.

Today, the Bellevue Collection includes 250 shops, 18 sit-down restaurants, a 16-screen cinema and 700 hotel rooms.

If all the new developments get built on Bellevue Way in the next few years, shoppers could browse through street-level shops stretching several blocks from Northeast 10th to Second streets.

Freeman may realize his goal "to have the best retail street in the Northwest," Meyers said.

Reporter Monica Soto Ouchi contributed to this story.

Copyright (c) 2007, Seattle Times Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.


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