Note: This is the third in an ongoing series of posts profiling the shopping malls found in the Seattle area. The previous posts in this series can be found below:
For those of you out there who have been wondering when I would get around to actually finishing up my profile of Crossroads in Bellevue, rest assured that I have actually been working on this for some time now. The main reason that I have delayed this is that I have not been able to settle on an appropriate format for this. Crossroads is a very different place from the two malls that I have previously profiled on the site, and just taking a few photos and putting them up with some comments (as I have done previously) would not do the place justice. Because of this, I have decided that a better approach would be to split this up into four parts, since there is a lot of material to cover here. Tentatively, this is how I plan to do this:
- Part 1: The Mall (this post)
- Part 2: The Stores and the Restaurants
- Part 3: What’s the Secret? (What is it that has allowed Crossroads to succeed where other malls have failed?)
- Part 4: A History of Crossroads (I haven’t been able to find a whole lot of info on this yet; any help that could be provided would be appreciated here.)
In many ways, the story of Crossroads Mall is similar to that of the Totem Lake and Factoria Malls. All three are relatively small malls designed for a similar mix of stores (although Crossroads is about a decade older than Totem Lake and fifteen years older than Factoria,) and all have faced similar challenges. There is one major difference that distinguishes Crossroads though: Where other similar malls in the area have foundered and failed, Crossroads has thrived, witha low vacancy rate and a strong base of shoppers. This has not always been the case though. When the current ownership took over the Crossroads Mall in 1985, it was largely vacant and considered to be a failed shopping center. Since that time, a unique approach to retail has evolved Crossroads into something that is less of a conventional shopping mall and more of a gathering place for the community that just happens to be located in a mall, with a unique mix of tenants you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re looking for designer label fashions, high-end housewares and four-star cuisine, Crossroads isn’t the place to look. On the other hand if you’re looking for unique yet affordable food, stuff to do and a place to spend a Friday evening without breaking the bank, Crossroads is the place to go on the Eastside. In this series of posts we will take a look at Crossroads, and what has made it a success where other malls have failed. After the jump, a tour of the Crossroads Mall property.
(Please note that this post contains a lot of pictures, and it may take some time to load if you are on a slower Internet connection.)
Opened: October 1962? (I am still trying to confirm this)
Owner: Metrovation(formerly Terranomics) since 1985
Major Stores: Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, Michaels Arts and Crafts, QFC, Barnes and Noble, The Sports Authority, Circuit City, Old Navy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Petco
Other notable features: 8-screen cinema (formerly 10 screens before a recent remodel,) The Market Restaurants, The Crossroads Stage, a giant chessboard, murals and sculptures outside the mall, a small King County Library branch
(Click for an interactive map)
The mall (highlighted above) derives its name from the Crossroads neighborhood in which it is located, and the mall itself is located at the crossroads of Northeast 8th Street (the main East-West arterial through Bellevue) and 156th Avenue Northeast, although the name of the neighborhood more likely comes from the nearby intersection of NE 8th and 148th Avenue Northeast, which is the main North/South route through this part of Bellevue. Downtown Bellevue (and Bellevue Square) can be found a couple of miles down West of here on Northeast 8th, and 156th passed through the middle of Microsoft’s sprawling corporate campus roughly a mile north of here. The neighborhood in which Crossroads is primarily residential, with the mall itself surrounded by a mix of apartment buildings and some smaller shopping centers. Also bordering the mall to the East is the City of Bellevue’s Crossroads Neighborhood Park, which features a large community center and a small 9-hole par 3 golf course, among other amenities. Unlike most of the malls in the area, Crossroads is located a considerable distance away from any of the major freeways. I-405 is several miles away on Northeast 8th, and getting to 520 requires either going all the way thtough Microsoft to Northeast 40th or going over to 148th and heading north into the Overlake neighborhood. Going straight down southbound 156th will eventually get you onto westbound I-90 toward Seattle, although this route goes mostly through residential neighborhoods on a 2-lane road.
The actual enclosed mall portion of Crossroads is not really all that large, and a significant portion of the retail space is found in a number of buildings separate from the main enclosed mall in the center. This can serve to give the place the appearance of a more conventional strip mall. The fact that most of the large stores in the main mall have exterior as well as interior entrances serves to reinforce that perception to some degree.
A number of the mall’s anchor stores are found outside of the enclosed mall as well. The Sports Authority, Circuit City, Michaels and the cinema are each located in their own separate building.
You may have noticed the prominent checkerboard tile patterns on a number of the buildings that have been shown so far. These patterns are all over the place on the exterior of the mall and the surrounding buildings, and appear to be an offshoot of an earlier branding of the mall that has now been mostly replaced, although the checkerboard patterns remain.
This sign, located at the intersection of Northeast 8th and 156th Avenue NE, shows the mall’s old logo, which also sports the checkerboard pattern. Although the majority of the signage around the mall has been replaced by the current logo, this old logo can still be found in a number of places.
Above the exterior entrance to the QFC store you can find the old Crossroads logo in neon sign form.
This one is found near the entrance between the main mall and the QFC store, just above the giant chessboard (more on that later.) The hands on this are actually animated, and point in their respective directions.
Throughout the mall grounds, other artistic touches can be found, with a number of sculptures and murals scattered throughout the property. The photos you see here provide just a sampling of some of the artwork found at Crossroads. It should be noted that since the above picture was taken, the cow crossing sign seems to have disappeared, but a “voicebox” has been added that actually makes the cow moo at people and cars as they pass by. This seems to have been a very recent addition, since I only noticed this a couple of days before this was written. In the background of this picture is Applegreen Furniture, a 30-year resident of Crossroads that is currently in the process of closing down as its owners prepare to go into retirement.
To some extent, the artwork and sculpture scattered around serves to mask what would otherwise be a relatively unremarkable structure housing the mall which has become old and shopworn over the years. While the place is by no means falling apart, you don’t have to look too hard to find signs of the building’s age. Even in its current vacant state, in some ways even the Totem Lake Mall appears to be in better physical shape overall. Then again, that mall is also a decade newer than Crossroads.
Moving inside the mall, we can see that in general, the interior design of the mall is a relatively unremarkable example of 60s commercial design. For the most part, the mall itself doesn’t try to do much besides provide space for the businesses that exist inside, although there are a few interesting features, which will be discussed below.
In a day when vast expanses of granite and marble tile are the norm for flooring in most malls, the floors at Crossroads (which appear to be original to the mall’s 1960s genesis) are in a style that has now fallen well out of favor, and doesn’t look likely to come back anytime soon. You can also see by the appearance of cracks and other signs of wear that these floors have definitely seen better days, especially in some of the high-traffic areas.
The mall’s other furnishings are similarly modest. These benches were located in a courtroom down in Kent in a previous life, and were acquired by Crossroads a number of years ago when the courthouse was being remodeled. The only reason I know this is because of a flyer that was posted in the mall around the time these showed up.
In the food court area (also known as the Market Restaurants) the style is drastically different from the relatively spartan white hallways found elsewhere in the mall, although the furnishings are similarly modest, with mostly plain tables and cheap plastic chairs providing a place to sit and eat, and not much else. Although a number of the tables have been replaced with newer ones recently (as you can see here,) a lot of the older tables are still around, and the plastic chairs remain. The Market Restaurants will be covered in much more detail in the next post.
Not everything in the mall is quite this utilitarian though. For younger children, a number of kiddie rides have been provided, such as the roadster you see above. Many of these rides were originally manufactured in the 1950s, and have been restored to like-new condition in recent years. It is rare to find this ride not being in use when you walk through this area, especially during the day on a Saturday.
The most prominent of the kiddie rides is this small merry-go-round, which is even rarer to find without kids on it than any of the other rides. I can’t be certain of how old this is, but I would have to guess that it is even older than the other rides. In spite of its age, it is in very good condition, and is decorated very elaborately.
Among the merry-go-round’s decorations are a number of tableaus painted at the top, one of which is shown above. This shows what the sign at the front entrance to the mall (pictured at the top of the post) looked like before the recent rebranding of Crossroads took place. The name “Eastside Public Market” seems to be intended to invoke the much more famous Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. For a number of years, Crossroads even had its own fish market, found near the Market Restaurants. The Eastside Public Market branding of Crossroads has disappeared completely under the current branding.
Crossroads also provides entertainment options for grown-ups as well. Another of the mall’s prominent features is this giant chessboard, located near the entrance to the QFC store. In addition to the games which are almost always being played on the giant chessboard (if you want to play on the giant board, you will generally have to wait behind several other people) you will often find many people playing chess or other games (collectible card games seem to be quite popular here these days) on the nearby tables.
Near the center of the mall is found the Crossroads Stage, on which live music is played for the enjoyment of the mall’s guests at least three times a week. This will be covered in more detail later as well. To the right of the stage you can see the entrance to the Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store, which occupies the former location of the mall’s Lamonts/Gottschalks store.
For a mall of this type (or any mall, for that matter) the physical condition of the building is a far less important indicator of its overall health than its occupancy rate, and this is where Crossroads begins to distinguish itself from the other malls that have been profiled previously on this site. Unlike Totem Lake (which has only a few tenants left in the lower mall) and Factoria (which has seen a number of recent closures as the pending redevelopment of the property approaches,) the occupancy rate at Crossroads remains high, and vacancies are few and far between. In the next post in this series, I will discuss the businesses that make their home at Crossroads, and some of the things that set Crossroads apart and have allowed it to thrive in its chosen retail niche in spite of the odds.