The area’s shopping destinations made it through the Recession; now they’re charging ahead

Shopping on the Eastside is a regional pastime. Some of the major centers’ parking lots are packed every day, year round. Others see most of their business during weekends or big sale periods. Those consistent crowds helped Eastside retailers weather the Great Recession of the late 2000s far better than much of the country. And by now, any declines companies may have seen during that historic downturn appear to be distant memories. It’s safe to say Eastside retail is back — if it ever really went away. In the following pages, we take a look at the five major shopping centers on the Eastside — focusing foremost on the revamping Redmond Town Center — and some locally owned businesses throughout the area to see how they’re doing.

As a retail outlet, the 700,000-square-foot Redmond Town Center is more similar to Seattle’s University Village than its Eastside neighbor, Bellevue Square. Filled with stroller moms on weekday mornings, crowds for the Redmond Saturday Market, and families for its holiday carousel and ice skating rink, the shopping destination attracts a different demographic than the more upscale Bellevue Collection. Redmond has embraced that difference.

Part of that is due to Stephen Hansen, co-owner of JSH Properties, the Bellevue-based minority owner of the shopping center that manages the Town Center’s retail space. Hansen is a local guy, and as such has more than monetary interest in the endeavor. He was born and raised on the Eastside and attended the University of Washington. Property manager Courtney Klein says Hansen has talked about when the Redmond Town Center was a golf course. Hansen and JSH came into the picture in 2013 with a vision to revitalize the shopping center, returning it to “town-center” status.

Klein says that revitalization is still underway.

“The momentum now is that all the stuff we’ve been working on and talking about is actually coming to life,” Klein says. “The first year, it’s a lot of planning and timing about when we’re going to do things. Now everything is really starting to happen, and there’s construction going on out there.”

Projects in the works at Redmond Town Center involve warming up the place, both literally and aesthetically. Sections of concrete slabs have been removed and replaced with warmer wood boardwalks on the north and south walkways. A 9-foot-tall fireplace will be installed in the north side of the center near Starbucks. A keen eye also would notice new hanging flower baskets, planters, and spruced-up lamp posts.

The biggest project is yet to come. The center is working with the city of Redmond to raise the street level of Northeast 74th Street, which runs through the center of the property between 164th and 166th avenues northeast. After it is raised, the street will be blocked off to through traffic, and the center court fountain will nearly double in size. A shuffleboard court will be added, as will more greenery and seating.

“We’re trying to make it a European walkway where people can feel more community and have a place to hang out and meet people and gather,” Klein says. “People are going to feel more safe with their kids” without cars driving through.

The pedestrian walkway might be used as a venue for a street fair, small food vendors, or bicycle rentals.

Klein says new stores will be added to the center by the end of the year, including Big 5 Sporting Goods; Seattle’s Cow Chip Cookies; Bellevue’s Jujubeet; and Evereve, a clothing store for moms formerly known as Hot Mama.

“Some other leases are about to be signed, and we’re looking at bringing in more restaurants,” Klein says.

Cow Chip Cookies owner Karen Larson is excited to open the store in Redmond. She had a store at the Redmond Town Center for nearly 11 years, but shuttered it about three years ago when she says she was unable to come to a lease agreement with the former owners.

“I spent a year trying to come to an agreement, but it didn’t work out,” Larson says.

Larson is in the process of building out her new store, which will be the company’s third retail space. She’s pleased with the location of the new store — a ground floor spot with a walk-up window — and with the improvements JSH is making to the shopping center.

“They are really into doing community things and improving the site,” Larson says, “Hopefully they close that street (74th) down. I think they have really positive things going on.”

Redmond Town Center is different than its neighboring large retail centers in that it doesn’t have many large department stores — Macy’s is the only one — as anchors. The difference is by design, because open-air shopping centers are more lifestyle centers and less shopping centers.

Situated near open space along Bear Creek and the Sammamish River, it’s easy enough for Town Center visitors to stop in for lunch, ice cream, or a snack and hit the trails.

Leases have increased from last year, Klein says. The center is 89 percent full, and management is wooing larger tenants, but retailers are waiting to see the results of the center’s renovations.

“They are anxious to see what happens with the renovations, and possibly come over,” Klein says.

Bianca Szyperski, owner of Jujubeet and a former Redmond resident, says she is excited about opening her store’s third location at the Town Center, which she used to frequent with her kids.

“It was really kind of run down,” Szyperski says. “When we saw the new ownership and plans for changes, we got excited. We are seeing the vision, and that’s why we are really excited to open a store there.”

Klein, the property manager, says pretty much everyone is looking forward to the improvements being made at the
Town Center.

“There’s a lot going on in Redmond. A lot is being built, a lot of people are moving over here; we have a lot of big corporations here,” Klein says. “We’re trying to bring Redmond Town Center back as the town center to be a good meeting place too; to not go home after work but have places to meet and stay awhile.”

Courtesy Bellevue Crossroads

Courtesy Bellevue Crossroads

15600 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue

Bellevue Crossroads has been a fixture on the Eastside for more than 50 years. The retail center experienced a downturn during the 1980s recession but bounced back after Sher Partners took over property management in 1985.
Filled with public art and focused on the community’s diversity, Crossroads hosts hundreds of events that run the gamut from food drives to community concerts and festivals.

Marketing director Sue Popma says the shopping center is 99 percent leased and enjoys strong ties to the area’s international community and the city as a whole.

“Crossroads is widely known in the community as a gathering place for all,” Popma says.

What the 500,000-square-foot shopping center lacks in large department stores, it makes up for with a farmer’s market with nearly 20 food vendors; a stage where school children and music performers exhibit their talents through the holiday season; and 85 stores with smaller anchor stores such as Barnes and Noble, Petco, and Bed Bath and Beyond.

Photo courtesy The Landing

Photo courtesy The Landing

828 N. 10th Place, Renton

The Landing in Renton recently changed hands. It was sold in December 2013 by developer Pearlmark Harvest Lakeshore to AEW Global, a Boston-based investment fund, for $165.4 million. JSH Properties continued to handle leasing and management after the sale. Property manager Terri Paller says The Landing is more than 90 percent leased.

The 607,000-square-foot open-air shopping center is home to large stores such as Target, Cost Plus World Market, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Staples, and PetSmart. The center has 40 stores, 20 restaurants, and a 14-screen movie theater. Unique to this Eastside shopping center is World of Beer, which has a selection of 500 beers.

Courtesy Shops at the Bravern

Courtesy Shops at the Bravern

11111 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue

The Shops at the Bravern is the only major shopping center on the Eastside that doesn’t have a movie theater, but that certainly isn’t a deterrent for its shoppers. Because there are high-end shops such as anchor Neiman Marcus, David Lawrence, Gucci, Hermes, and Jimmy Choo, shoppers at the two-level, 309,000-square foot, open-air shopping center aren’t looking to stash the kids at the movies while they shop.

Built in 2009, the center took some heat for bringing luxury brands to the area during the Great Recession. Undeterred, Schnitzer West developed the property and sold it in May 2012 to New York investment firm Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. for $79 million.

At the time of the sale, the Bravern was 87 percent leased. As of early October, a Bravern spokesperson said the Bravern is 80 percent occupied with 21 stores.

Courtesy Bellevue Collection

Courtesy Bellevue Collection

Multiple locations, Bellevue

The Bellevue Collection includes Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place, and Lincoln Square. The massive shopping complex is owned and managed by Kemper Development Company.

The Collection began as Bellevue Shopping Square when it was built by Kemper Freeman Sr. in 1946. The name was changed to Bellevue Square in 1955. Lincoln Square was completed in 2005, adding dining, shopping, and residential space to the Collection.

The Collection emphasizes luxe brands such as Nordstrom, Burberry, 7 For All Mankind, Hugo Boss, and Armani Exchange. The Collection hosts the area’s only fashion week festivities, during which local clothing designers’ creations are highlighted on the runway alongside high-end national brands. One highlight of the week is Vogue’s trend show, which is put together by a team from the national fashion magazine.

Two large construction projects are underway or soon will be at the Bellevue Collection. Expansions of Lincoln and Bellevue squares will add 700,000 square feet of retail space and 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurants.
The Collection is 98 percent leased, says Jennifer Leavitt, Bellevue Collection’s vice president of marketing.