The Birth of Bellevue Square
Bellevue Square Mall, a cornerstone of the Bellevue community, has a rich history that dates back to the mid-20th century. On August 20, 1946, the shopping center opened its doors to the public under the name “Bellevue Shopping Square.”
It was a significant event, marking the establishment of the first suburban department store by Marshall Field & Co., a renowned retail powerhouse. The store was operated through its Seattle-based subsidiary, Frederick & Nelson, adding a local touch to the shopping square.
The Bellevue Shopping Square was not just a commercial venture but a symbol of post-war economic growth and the burgeoning consumer culture. It was a place where families could spend their weekends, where teenagers could hang out after school, and where the community could come together for special events and holidays.
The Evolution of Bellevue Square
Bellevue Shopping Square didn’t remain static; it evolved with the times and the community’s needs. A few years after its opening, the mall’s name was shortened to Bellevue Square, which has stuck to this day.
In 1955, JCPenney, a famous department store chain, opened a store in Bellevue Square, further enhancing its retail offerings.
One of the most significant transformations in Bellevue Square’s history was the evolution of Nordstrom. What started as a local shoe store in 1958 gradually expanded its product range to include apparel, becoming a primary anchor in the mall by 1966.
The growth of Nordstrom mirrored the growth of Bellevue Square itself – both were on a trajectory of expansion and success.
Expansion and Growth
The 1980s marked a period of significant expansion for Bellevue Square. Under the leadership of Kemper Freeman Jr., the son of the original developer, the mall grew in several phases.
In 1984, it added a location for The Bon Marché, a Seattle-based department store, further solidifying its status as a premier shopping destination.
The growth didn’t stop there. In 1992, following the bankruptcy and closure of Frederick & Nelson, Bellevue Square seized the opportunity to reconfigure the vacated anchor space into additional mall shop space. This strategic move allowed for a greater variety of retailers, enhancing the shopping experience for visitors.
Bellevue Square in the 21st Century
As the new millennium dawned, Bellevue Square continued to adapt and innovate. The Bon Marché stores were renamed Bon-Macy’s in 2003 and then simply Macy’s in 2005, reflecting the changes in the retail landscape.
In 2007, a significant development occurred – a sky bridge linked Bellevue Square to Lincoln Square, another property owned by Kemper Freeman. Together, they formed part of the “Bellevue Collection,” a testament to the growth and success of Bellevue Square.
In recent years, Bellevue Square has seen both challenges and opportunities. In 2014, JCPenney announced its closure after 55 years in the mall.
However, this space was not left vacant for long. In 2015, the 200,000-square-foot area was converted into smaller retail stores, introducing new brands and experiences to the mall’s visitors.
Unfortunately, in 2020, Bellevue Square faced a significant setback when looters damaged it during a downtown riot amid the George Floyd protests. Despite this, the mall has shown resilience, bouncing back and continuing to serve the community.
Bellevue Square Today
Bellevue Square remains a vibrant hub of retail, dining, and entertainment. It continues to evolve, with new stores and experiences regularly added to its roster. From the reopening of Lincoln South Food Hall to the opening of Canada Goose, there’s always something new to discover at Bellevue Square.
In addition to its retail offerings, Bellevue Square hosts various events, such as the Fashion Week at The Bellevue Collection. These events attract visitors and contribute to the dynamic and lively atmosphere Bellevue Square is known for.
From its humble beginnings in 1946 to its status today as a bustling shopping center, Bellevue Square has been a constant in the ever-changing landscape of Bellevue.
It’s more than just a mall – it’s a gathering place, a community hub, and a testament to the city’s growth and development. As we look to the future, one thing is sure: Bellevue Square will continue to evolve, adapt, and serve the Bellevue community.