Freeman plans to expand retail empire in downtown Bellevue

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Developer Kemper Freeman Jr.is known for thinking big, and his new plans for downtown Bellevue are no exception.The developer is planning to add more luxury retail shops and a upper-tier boutique hotel to his retail empire in downtown Bellevue.

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.

Plans call for replacing the parking area at the southeast corner of Bellevue Square with a luxury wing and a 180-room boutique hotel.Currently that site is occupied by a parking garage between the J.C. Penney and Macy's stores.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Leavitt declined comment on which retailers were in talks with the developer about taking space in the new addition.

Freeman's 1.7 million-square-foot portfolio includes Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square and Bellevue Place, which are also located at the intersection of Bellevue Way and Northeast Eighth Street.

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.

Freeman's holdings consist of 250 retail stores, 41 restaurants and 700 hotel rooms. By adding a wider range of stores and hotel rooms, the developer intends to increase the regional mall's draw throughout the Northwest.

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.

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