Seven Decades of Visionary Thinking
When you look at The Bellevue Collection with all its vibrancy and bustle, its hundreds of shops, the soaring office towers, fine restaurants and luxury hotels, it’s hard to believe that this is and always has been a family enterprise. That in fact it began as a 16-store shopping center that emerged in the post–World War II era when the Eastside of Puget Sound was a sparsely populated region of 25,000 people.
An Informed Vision
The story of The Bellevue Collection is a story about the vision and commitment of the Freeman family. It begins with Kemper Freeman Sr., who developed Bellevue Shopping Square, as it was first known, with the help of a professional planner and a ten-cent booklet of demographic and civic development statistics as a guide. Freeman researched the area between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, meticulously evaluating the grocery stores, service stations, and other businesses serving the region. The War Manpower Commission informed Freeman that Bellevue was failing to retain the war workers who had moved in to the area. Lack of recreational activities and services was a contributing factor.
Then in 1945, Freeman began a nationwide fact-finding tour. Driving to Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Tucson, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, he found shopping centers that had been designed with a new generation of automobile-oriented shoppers in mind. Freeman was impressed with J.C. Nichols’s Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, the prototype for America’s large, elaborate suburban centers.
The 10-acre tract of land where the current Bellevue Square sits, fronting on 104th Avenue N.E. just south of N.E. 8th Street, was purchased by Kemper Freeman Sr. from James Ditty, who had originally acquired the land in the late 1920s.
By the end of 1946, Freeman had brought 20 stores to Bellevue Shopping Square. Tenants included Frederick & Nelson, the first shopping center department store built by Marshall Field’s in the U.S. The shopping center’s name evolved into Bellevue Square, and in 1955 JCPenney became its second major department store. By the close of the decade, Bellevue Square had grown to 45 stores. Nordstrom, then a local shoe store, added apparel and became the third major anchor in 1966.
The 1980s marked a significant reconstruction period for Bellevue Square. Remodeled in four phases, Bellevue Square went from a one-level, open-air shopping center to a multi-level, enclosed super regional center more than one million square feet in size. The major catalyst for phase four of the remodel was the addition of The Bon Marché, a 174,000-square-foot department store.
In the early 1990s, Frederick & Nelson filed bankruptcy and closed its doors for the final time. Responding to a shift in customer needs, Bellevue Square management chose an innovative route to redevelop the three-floor department store space into more than 50 high-volume, destination specialty stores. This pivotal decision brought about the Bellevue Square of today.
Bellevue Place Joins The Collection
In 1986, construction began on Bellevue Place, adding much-needed office, hotel, shopping, and restaurant space to the downtown district. The doors opened to the public in 1989. It was the first true mixed-use project in the Northwest, offering convenience and cutting-edge amenities. The Hyatt Regency Bellevue caters to the needs of out-of-town guests and provides meeting and conference space for the region. It continues to be a hub for Eastside commerce and the arts.
Lincoln Square and the New Century
Lincoln Square is the most recent addition to Kemper Development Company and The Bellevue Collection. This extraordinary destination offers fine dining, shopping, a 16-screen luxury cinema, billiards, and the four-star Westin Bellevue Hotel. Completed in 2005, the multi-use project also features 148 privately owned luxury residences with sweeping views of the Northwest.
The Freeman family remains highly involved with the everyday operations of The Bellevue Collection. The family’s vision continues to guide its growth and lead its status as the epicenter of the booming Eastside and the Pulse of the New Northwest.
To understand the significance of the Full Circle installation, we look back to the history of Bellevue and connect the dots of time.
The ArtistDudley Carter (18911992)
ArtistAnna Hanson (Granddaughter of Dudley Carter)
The ArtFull Circle
The carving wraps around the centerpiece of The Lodge, its stone fireplace. The design concept, waterfowl rising into flight, is carved in four large pieces that hang from pegs in on each side of the fireplace. Carved from a log weighing in at between 5,000 6,000 lbs, Hanson spent more than six months carving the piece in her studio in Gibsons, B.C. It was shipped to the site earlier this week.
My grandfathers last piece (Bird Reaching for the Morning), featured a bird perched on the top in a forked form. That was the nucleus for Full Circle, says Hanson. According to Hanson, the wood will take up to eight years to fully dry. More than 1,000 gallons worth of chips where generated as the log was hollowed to remove weight and reduce the checking (cracking) as it dries over time. The project was the most exciting thing Ive ever done, says Hanson. Ive done giant whales and other sculptures, but it was fascinating to deal with the natural twists and turns of the tree to create the sculpture. Thats how my grandfather worked, letting the wood shape the carving. I felt that he was working through me to complete this project. Much of the original character of the tree is still visible in the carving. I had to think in reverse and let the trees natural beauty guide me.