13 July 2024

Bellevue Square, Bellevue, WA

 An extant asset

Across the Puget Sound Region’s Lake Washington from Seattle lies the boom-burg of Bellevue.  One of the Emerald City’s largest and most affluent suburbs, the city is home to three different enclosed shopping malls.  While Crossroads of Bellevue and Marketplace at Factoria find success as smaller, community centers, Bellevue Square is the absolute anchor of retail over the lake.

1- The Bon/ Mall Entrance hybrid in 2004.  2- The look of Bellevue Square’s center court in 2004.

On one of my first visits to the Seattle area in the early aughts, what drew me to the bedroom community was a collection of gleaming skyscrapers visible from Capitol Hill to the west.  On my first exploration of the area, I was disappointed to find that downtown Bellevue had the look and feel of a large suburban office park, albeit an extremely large one.  But, fortunately, there was something else there that drew my attention.

1- Some of downtown’s Bellevue’s earlier skyscrapers in 2004.  2- The 2004 façade fronting Bellevue way.  3- The main western mall entrance in 2004.  4- Nordstrom’s exterior and shops along 8th Street in 2004.  5 & 6- The dark interior of Bellevue square before its mid-aughts renovation.

In the shadow of the shimmering towers of steel and glass was an actual super-regional shopping complex.  This was not an urban vertical in the sense of Seattle’s Pacific Place or the San Francisco Centre, but a sprawling two-level facility covering several blocks of the central business district.

Bellevue Square Mallmanac ca. 2004.  View the full PDF version here.

Bellevue’s Square’s façade itself wasn’t notable, nothing more that earth tone brick walls that did little to invite pedestrian traffic in, so it fit in perfectly with the rest of downtown.  Few if any individual retailers had exterior entrances besides the anchors.  The inside, however, was a different story.

1 & 2- The exterior of the then closed JCPenney store in 2015.  3- Bellevue Square’s much improved exterior in the same year.  4- Nordstrom’s mall entrance on the main concourse all decked out for 2015 Christmas.

Just past the dark glass elements adorning the entryways I found myself surrounded by differing shades of burnt amber tile floors and planters holding lush greenery, all lying beneath the green painted steel railings encircling the mezzanines while everything was bathed in rather generous natural lighting compared to its eighties peers.  I absolutely loved it.

2015 Christmas décor at Bellevue Square.

When I returned to the Puget Sound region in 2012, this time as a resident, I was glad of the changes I saw in and around Bellevue Square.  The entire downtown area had grown exponentially while at the same time providing a more inviting experience for pedestrians.  I was happy to see that the mall had done the same.

Bellevue Square Mallmanac ca. 2012.  View the full PDF version here.

A landscaped urban walking trail of sorts had been added between the Bellevue Transit Center and the shopping complex, leading directly to the shared mall and Macy’s entrance.  This provides much easier access to the retail destination for the many riders of King County Metro. 

Bellevue Square Mallmanac ca. 2013.  View the full PDF version here.

Bellevue Square’s façade has been updated to connect more with its face along Bellevue Way.  Across the street, Lincoln Square South and North as well as Bellevue Place have been consolidated into the Bellevue Collection, connected to the main building by a series of open-air skywalks.

1- The western main mall entrance in 2024.  2 to 6- Inside the newer portion of Bellevue Square.

The inevitable reimagining of the interior occurred in the mid-2000s when the dark tiles were replaced with the more subtle earth tones of the decade. Softer wooden styled ornamentations were added to the interior décor around the mezzanines and the seating areas while the distinctive green metal railings were updated with replacements of clear glass.

The Nordstrom wing of the original Bellevue Square.

The complex today known as Bellevue Square opened in 1946 as the Bellevue Shopping Square.  Seattle based Frederick & Nelson was the sole anchor at the time but was joined by JCPenney and a smaller Nordstrom shoe store less than a decade later.  At the same time, the name was relabeled to its present iteration.  Nordstrom expanded to a full anchor in 1966 under the banner Nordstrom Best.

Bellevue Square Mallmanac ca. 2015.  View the full PDF version here.

The eighties saw the greatest changes for what was still at the time an open air campus of detached structures.  Much of the original development was replaced by the enclosed arcades that exist today.  The buildings housing anchors Frederick & Nelson as well as Nordstrom were retained and integrated into the new complex.

In and around Bellevue Square’s center court.

Three new build locations were raised for anchors JCPenney, Nordstrom and The Bon Marché, a Seattle based addition.  Completed at the mid-point of the decade, the newly enclosed complex boasted 145 stores and just over 1,000,000 square feet of space.

Bellevue Collection Mallmanac ca. 2017.  View the full PDF version here.

Frederick & Nelson vacated their space in 1992 and the entire was area was converted to host forty-five additional inline stores.   A few years later, another concourse was added connecting the former Frederick & Nelson location to the newly expanded Nordstrom, which had enlarged their footprint to the west.

Bellevue Square’s eastern corridor, once home to JCPenney.

During the first decade of the new millennium, The Bon Marché was first rebranded as The Bon-Macy’s before simply becoming Macy’s.  At the same time, Bellevue Square embarked on the first full renovation of its enclosed portion, going from the dark and brooding décor of the eighties to the warm wooden and earthy tones of the aughts, thankfully skipping the pastel induced craziness of the nineties completely.

1 & 2- Looking toward the short Macy’s corridor from center court.  3- The small seating area at the food court.  4- The Macy’s mall entrance.  5- Looking back from Macy’s to the food court and Bellevue Square’s third level.  6- Macy’s Home Store occupies the basement level.

At around the same time, Bellevue Square was connected to neighboring facilities such as Lincoln Square and the entire complex was rechristened The Bellevue Collection.  In subsequent years, JCPenney darkened their spot in 2014 and the square footage was modified to host even more smaller shops.  Stores like Zara and Uniqlo were then added to the mix.

Bellevue Square Mallmanac ca. 2018.  View the full PDF version here.

Today, skyscrapers continue to rise around the shopping center at an almost constant rate.  The Bellevue Light Rail Station opened earlier in 2024, adding even better connectivity to the facility to points west in Seattle.  With the closure of Northgate Mall this will make Bellevue Square one of the more convenient major shopping destinations to the city center when the overlake portion of the line is finished.

1- Nordstrom’s intricate west facing exterior entrance.  2- An unused former entrance on Bellevue Square’s west facing façade.  3 & 4- The exterior along Bellevue Way.  5- The entrance to the expansion area known as The Lodge.  6- The Macy’s/ mall hybrid entrance from the connecting path to the Bellevue Station.

In addition to Northgate’s demise, King County has also seen the departure of indoor facilities Totem Lake Mall and Aurora Village Mall.  Southcenter dominates as the major destination within the entire metro area, but it’s good to see that Bellevue Square follows closely behind and won’t be added to the list of the fallen any time soon.

Bellevue Square Mallmanac ca. 2022.  View the full PDF version here.

Bellevue Collection official website