Kemper Freeman to add more to Bellevue downtown

An artist’s rendering, looking to the southeast along Bellevue Way, shows a new skybridge proposed for the south end of Bellevue Square, connecting to an expanded Lincoln Square. - Contributed image
An artist’s rendering, looking to the southeast along Bellevue Way, shows a new skybridge proposed for the south end of Bellevue Square, connecting to an expanded Lincoln Square.
— image credit: Contributed image

In its 62-year history, Kemper Development has had a number of milestones: Bellevue Place, Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square, together encompassing four million square feet of real estate on 50 acres of land in Bellevue’s downtown core.

Over the next few years, the company will add three new projects including a 351-room addition to the Hyatt Regency hotel, a luxury village connected to Bellevue Square called The Bellevue and a two-tower expansion of Lincoln Square. The future projects will add approximately two million square feet of hotel, condo, retail and restaurant space.

“We try to make sure everything we already have stays open and remains successful,” explained Kemper Freeman Jr., chairman and chief executive of the company. “We’ve been adding new stuff since the day we started this and it’s just been a continuous evolution since 1946 when we first opened.”

Freeman said the key to the projects is keeping everything it already has opened successful during construction.

“The question becomes how do we park for the existing projects while we are building the new ones all on the same existing 50 acres?” he said.

The answer is in the timing.

“One of the things we always have tried to do is to time our projects so they hit market sales, which allows us to stay in business, and the ability to do that is what keeps us alive,” Freeman said. “If you miss on that — your [business is] dead.”

The Hyatt expansion is the first of the three projects and will nearly double the size of the hotel. In addition to the 351 new hotel rooms, the second tower will boast the second and third largest ballrooms in the Northwest. The project includes a 500-stall underground parking garage that will be built first.

“Parking is the big riddle. When we finally knew what our next lineup of projects were, we had to figure out how we wanted to phase them together so what is already in place continues to stay open and continues to grow,” Freeman explained, adding that one of the ways you do that is by always leading with parking. “Ninety percent of our customers come by car and they need to be able to get in and out and have the convenience of free parking.”

The parking garage is projected to be open for use in November and the Hyatt expansion will open a year from now in July 2009.

The second project, called The Bellevue, will be located at the northwest corner of Bellevue Way and Forth Street. The luxury village will consist of two city blocks of exterior retail space along Bellevue Way.

The next stage will be to tear down the parking garage across the street at Bellevue Square, rebuild and expand it, adding 2,500 additional parking spaces. Then construction will begin on The Bellevue. The project will encompass 140,000 square feet of property and three levels of retail. An elaborate glass atrium will stretch from the shopping center, out above the shops, and across the street. The iconic piece of architecture will have two sky bridges, continuing another block into the new Lincoln Square expansion.

Over time, high-end retailers will line both sides of the street.

Once construction on The Bellevue is underway, construction on the Lincoln Square expansion will begin, starting with an underground parking garage and again, building on top of that. The two-tower project will sit directly across the street from The Bellevue and will be built above 350,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage. One tower will house 200 luxury condos and a 120-room luxury hotel and the other tower will incorporate approximately 545,000 square feet of office space.

“It may be all star gazing ... but our goal is be early in the beginning of the next condo buying cycle. This cycle is going to get brutal before it ends,” Freeman said. “I don’t know where the axe is going to fall, but somewhere between all the deals that are being built in Bellevue, some developers are going to get nailed.”

Again, timing comes into play. Aiming to be first in line for the next wave of the condo market, construction for the Lincoln Square expansion will begin sometime in summer 2010.

Currently, big changes are underway inside Bellevue Square. The downtown mall is in the midst of a $45 million interior remodel that is set to be complete prior to the holiday season this November. Nordstrom also is in the midst of the department store’s biggest remodel in the company’s history, slated to be finished this upcoming holiday season.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at

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