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December 1, 2005
Kemper Freeman Jr. is chairman and CEO of Kemper Development Co., owner and developer of Lincoln Square.
When did you decide to go after the Lend Lease development and how did it affect your other plans?
Before the opportunity came up for us to purchase Lincoln Square we were always committed to being its "cheerleader." This property was across the street from Bellevue Square and it was important it opened and we wanted it to be successful. When it started going into trouble I had my team develop ideas I asked them to come up with a plan and focus on, "What would we do with it if we owned it?" When the opportunity arose to purchase, we were already a year and a half into thinking about the details. We had a head start and the local knowledge to come up with a comprehensive plan. We did put the Hyatt Regency Bellevue expansion on hold for two years. We plan to start construction this summer.
What would be different if you started from scratch?
Not much. We redid the retail and parking completely, and made some modifications to the hotel, condo and office.
Where did you look for ideas?
We studied several great retail streets (such as Newbury Street) in Boston, Fourth Avenue (in Boca Raton, Fla.), Rodeo Drive (in Beverly Hills, Calif.), Union Square in San Francisco, and Michigan Avenue in Chicago. All great retail streets, and they all have other components besides retail, such as restaurants, shopping and hotels.
Start construction of the Lincoln Square office tower in early 2006. Start construction of a second hotel tower for The Hyatt Regency Bellevue this summer that will add more than 300 rooms, and a major remodel of the Wintergarden. Eventually start construction of a mixed-use project on the current site of Safeway that will be linked by a sky bridge.
Who's your competition?
Our biggest competition is from San Francisco and Chicago, in terms of having the full composition of restaurant, hotel and shops. I know they are at least 1,800 miles away, but the collection of Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place and Lincoln Square is a "destination retail resort."
This will be the biggest thing we've ever done. We are marketing these three properties as The Bellevue Collection. I never imagined people would start to call it The Bellevue Collection this was just a way to help identify that all three properties are in close proximity of each other. But I've had people come up to me and say they love the idea of The Bellevue Collection. We have a lot of offerings in a compact yet convenient space with plenty of free parking. We have three times the square footage of Southcenter Mall on one-third of the land. This is no small thing. We have 250 shops, 41 restaurants and cafes, a movie theater and 10,000 parking spaces.
Compiled by staff reporter Jon Silver, who can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.