The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 8, 2009

A Brief Tour of the Bellevue Galleria, Bungie’s Future Home

Filed under: Bellevue, Games, Malls, shopping — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:41 pm

For some time now, there have been various rumors floating around that Bungie, creators of the popular Halo series of games, has been contemplating a move from their current offices in downtown Kirkland to a new location in downtown Bellevue.  Those rumors have now officially been confirmed, albeit in somewhat surprising fashion.  Instead of the conventional office space that one might expect such a company to reside in, it turns out that Bungie will actually be making their new home at the Bellevue Galleria of all places, in the space which formerly housed an 11-screen cinema that closed down about a year ago.  For a company that tends to be somewhat secretive (even when they were under Microsoft, access to their current headquarters in an unmarked former hardware store in Kirkland was unusually restricted,) a space like this within a shopping center seems like a bit of an odd choice, but given the company’s preference for an open plan office, the spacious interior of the former movie theater provides the type of space they would be unlikely to find available anywhere else in Bellevue.

At the same time, this move also serves to fill at least some of the vacancies in the Bellevue Galleria, a moderately sized urban entertainment and shopping complex  in the heart of downtown Bellevue which has so far largely failed to live up to its potential in spite of its location.  Unlike most of the shopping centers that I have profiled on this Blog so far, I have actually been around here long enough to see the Bellevue Galleria for pretty much its entire history, although for much of that time there hasn’t been a whole lot to see here.  With the nice weather on Monday, I did take the opportunity to wander over to the Galleria while I was in Bellevue to take some pictures and put together a brief profile of the complex, which you will find after the jump.


March 31, 2009

Out-of-Context Ad Solution: You Might Want to Bring the Umbrella…

Filed under: Bellevue, Malls, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 3:15 pm

As you’ll recall, last week’s Out-of-Context ad showed the Easter Bunny choppin’ down the Bunny trail, dropping… well, something anyway, on what we would presume to be an unsuspecting crowd of Easter celebrants below.  That much should be easy enough to figure out based on the ad snippet (as shown above,)  but exactly what was the Easter Bunny doing in a helicopter in the first place?  And what the heck would he be dropping on the crowd below? The full advertisement is posted after the jump, along with a bit of background on what was (presumably) going on here.


March 28, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: The Fight Over Evergreen East, and Other Tidbits From 1978

Filed under: Bellevue, History, Malls, Recycled Newspaper, Redmond — Brian Lutz @ 2:31 pm

Although 1978 might seem like a bit of a random choice for a subject for this week’s Recycled Newspaper, the original reason I chose it was because March 21st 1953 was the day that the City of Bellevue was incorporated, and as such, the City’s 25th birthday would fall during that time period.  Before anyone thinks that I have a memory for such useless facts or anything like that, I do have to confess that the only reason I even knew about it was that I had been previously looking through some papers from 1973 and found a couple of things about a 20th birthday celebration for the city going on at Bellevue Square, but the microfilm was too blurry to get any good images from.  This is unfortunate, because it also included a complete map and directory of Bellevue Square at the time which would have been quite useful for my research if not for the fact that it was hardly readable. 

I figured that if there was a party going on for Bellevue’s 20th birthday, then the one for the 25th birthday would be even bigger, right?  Unfortunately, in the Journal-Americans for that week (by 1978, the East Side Journal and Bellevue American had merged together and began publishing six days a week, although there would be no Sunday editions for several years still.) there wasn’t even a mention of the occasion that I could find, much less anything about any civic celebrations that might have resulted from the event.  Even so, I found did find some historically newsworthy articles, particularly in regards to the planned but never constructed Evergreen East mall in what was then an unincorporated area (which later became part of Redmond,) but which eventually got put to use in a manner which is arguably more notable than the proposed shopping mall would have been.  At this point  This, plus a number of other interesting items I came across, will follow after the jump.


March 4, 2009

Totem Lake Mall May Be For Sale

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:21 pm

It’s been a while since there’s been anything to report on the Totem Lake Mall.  Since a new set of site plans was posted in June of last year, nothing else of note has happened besides the closing of the Old Country Buffet in the lower mall.  Initially there was some speculation that this was in preparation for upcoming demolition in preparation for the redevelopment, but it was disclosed in comments tha the closing was the result of consolidation on the part of Old Country Buffet’s parent company.  Since then, there has been no activity or change at the Totem Lake Mall property, and if the news coming out today is any indication, it may yet be a while before we see anything happening here.

The Kirkland Reporter is now reporting that although nothing has officially been announced yet, the mall’s current owner is quietly putting the mall up for sale.  Over the past year, DDR (the owner of the Totem Lake Mall) has seen its stock price decline by 95% as the commercial real estate market has been hit particularly hard by the recession, and has begun selling off a number of their properties.  The Totem Lake Mall was purchased  by Coventry/DDR for $37 million back in 2003, and they made plans for a $126 million redevelopment of the property.  Since early 2006, there has been little to no activity with regards to the redevelopment project, and now it seems that the city of Kirkland has basically written off the project, and is now seeking to move funds that had been set aside for road improvements from Totem Lake Mall to the redevelopment of Parkplace in downtown Kirkland (which still seems to be on track,  endless appeals from downtown Kirkland’s resident NIMBY population notwithstanding.)

Based on the article, it sounds like there has been talk of the property being for sale for some time now, but it has not yet been formally put up on the market.  It is not yet known how much the property would actually sell for at this point (I’m going to guess that it probably won’t be anywhere near the $37 million DDR originally paid for it,) but given the location of the property, I’m sure that there’s probably someone out there who might be interested in it.  The problem is that in this economic environment, who is going to have the money to spend on it? 

I’ll continue to keep an eye on the situation, and if anything actually happens here anytime in the near future (I’m not holding my breath,) I’ll be sure to report it.

September 15, 2008

Help Identify This Labelscar at Totem Lake

Filed under: Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:22 am

I’ve been doing a bit of digging through my photo backlog, and I found this one that I meant to post earlier, but forgot about somewhere along the line.  This is a labelscar which I found on the front (the side facing the street) of the building at Totem Lake Mall which currently houses the Trader Joes store.  I can’t really make this out, but I figure someone out there might recognize it.  Based on my research, it appears that this particular building previously housed a General Tire center and an indoor miniature golf course (there’s a bit of an odd combination) when the upper mall first opened, and later on I seem to recall seeing something about this becoming a Les Schwab tire center, but I can’t be certain of that (There’s a Les Schwab a few blocks away in the Totem Lake neighborhood which looks to be a lot more recent than this.)  These look like they could have been garage entrances at one point that later got walled over.  There’s also the enigmatic Turbo Tubes waterslides that I have seen multiple people write about in the comments, but have yet to hear of or see anything about those besides the fact that they existed. 

I’ve been meaning to put together a post on some of the stuff I’ve found on the upper mall so far, but I think I need to go back and get some more stuff off the microfilm before doing so.  In the meantime, anyone care to shed some light on this?

August 8, 2008

In Defense of the Traditional Shopping Mall – Part 1: The Reports of the Mall’s Death are Greaty Exaggerated

Filed under: Culture, Malls, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:57 pm

Over the past couple of days, I have noted that a significant number of visitors have arrived at this site from an article posted over at WorldChanging Seattle that was linked by BoingBoing.  As seems to be the case withmost of the incoming links to this site, the article deals with the decline of the traditional enclosed shopping mall, and the open-air “Town Center” type developments that are taking their place.  The article specifically touches on a few subjects (from something of an Urbanist, and to a lesser extent environmentalist perspective) that I have had sitting on my “to do” list for a while now, and there are some topics in the article that I would like to comment on.

The article over at WorldChanging (an activity that generally falls well outside of the scope of this particular website) cites a number of local malls as examples, but focuses primarily on Factoria and its upcoming redevelopment.  The overall tone of the article seems to suggest that the area’s shopping malls are on a rapid descent toward oblivion, which just isn’t the case.   The article’s claims that the malls in the area are headed down the proverbial tubes is greatly exaggerated, and even though the mixed use “town center” paradigm that the article discusses is becoming increasingly popular in the area’s shopping centers, the Seattle area’s traditional malls aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  In the article below, I’ll explain why this is the case.  Since this seems to be turning out to be far longer than I originally anticipated, I will split this into several parts.  The next part will discuss some of what makes malls go into decline, and a third part will discuss some of the goals of the Urbanists with regards to “Town Center” type developments, and explain why things may not work out there quite the way that they would like them to. 


August 5, 2008

Totem Lake Redevelopment Update: A Slight Change of Plans

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:37 am


Although it appears that the beginning of major construction work over at Factoria Mall is imminent, things continue to be quiet over at Totem Lake Mall a few miles to the North.  The comments on some of the previous posts on the Totem Lake Redevelopment have hinted at some of what the newly redeveloped property will have to offer and a possible timeframe calling for construction to begin later this year, but for the most part, solid information has been all but nonexistent for some time now.  The City of Kirkland’s website has no new information, and a building permit search still shows the permits for this project in “pending” status. 

That said, it appears that ever so slowly, progress continues on the design of the redeveloped shopping center, and the site plan found on DDR’s webpage for the mall has recently been updated once again.  This new site plan, has a date of June 11th 2008, and although much of the prior site plan discussed here from February remains intact, there are also some rather significant changes, particularly in the secondary anchor portion of the upper mall.  Unfortunately I forgot to save a copy of the PDF file for the previous site plan before it disappeared, but I did print off a copy, and the previous post has images that cover most of the details, so I do have enough info to make a comparison.  After the jump, a look at the new site plan, and some of the changes it entails.


July 27, 2008

What $240 Million Gets You These Days: A Look at the Westfield Southcenter Expansion

Filed under: Malls, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:07 am

Yesterday morning, after two years of construction, Westfield Southcenter’s new $240 million expansion officially opened its doors to the public with much fanfare.  A crowd estimated to be 6,000 people showed up (some of them arriving as early as 1AM) to be among the first to shop in the mall’s new stores, and although I wasn’t able to attend myself due to work, I was able to get down there this morning to check out the place.  As I had mentioned previously, last weekend the movie theater was already open on the third level of the new atrium.  This provided a chance to take a sneak peek at the new expansion, but at the time I didn’t take any photos since there was still a fair bit of stuff that was unfinished, and most of it was roped off anyway.   

With the new expansion, Southcenter now solidifies its position as the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest, and although it doesn’t add any new anchor stores (currently, the mall’s former Mervyn’s store remains vacant,) it still brings in several new major retailers, five new sit-down restaurants, a brand new food court (or “dining terrace” as they prefer to call it) and a 16-screen cinema.  After the jump, a look at some of the new features that the Southcenter expansion has to offer.


July 22, 2008

The New Southcenter is Almost Here…

Filed under: Malls — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:05 am

Among the malls found in the Seattle area, Westfield Southcenter (more commonly known by its previous name of Southcenter Mall) in Tukwila is one of the largest and busiest in the area.  Originally opened in 1968, much of the mall’s original 1960s architecture remains surprisingly intact, particularly on the distinctive ceilings in the mall’s corridors, and on the exterior architecture of the JCPenney and Macy’s (formerly Bon Marche) stores.  The Malls of America Blog (which, unfortunately, seems to have stopped being updated about a year ago) has several vintage photos of the mallin earlier days, and aside from a much smaller Nordstrom Best store than the current 2-story Nordstrom that is there now, the Fredrick and Nelson store being replaced by a Sears, and some changes to the signs, much of the mall looks the same today as it did back in the Sixties. 

In an effort to solidify their position as the largest shopping mall in Washington, an ambitious new expansion to the mall has been under construction for the past couple of years now, adding 75 new stores, a completely new food court, and a 16-screen cinema, as well as a pair of new parking garages which opened some time ago.  Thankfully, the expansion to Southcenter has left the classic details of the old mall almost entirely intact, with only the old food court being demolished to make room.  By choosing to expand the indoor mall, Westfield has decided to buck the trend toward moving outdoors, as seen at Northgate and Alderwood malls, and soon to be seen at Totem Lake and Factoria. 

I was here on Saturday, and found that the new AMC theater at Southcenter is already open, which allowed an opportunity to take a sneak peek of the new Southcenter.  There was a roped-off corridor between the old mall entrance across from the Macy’s and the theater, and the atrium entrance was also open at the time.  I took the photos of the exterior you see above, but didn’t take any photos of the interior since there was a lot that was still unfinished when I was there, and I don’t think there was much to see but a bunch of undressed mannequins at the time.  I also noticed that there were a number of stores from the old mall which were in the process of packing up and moving into new spaces, although it appeared that the new areas were being occupied mostly by new tenants. 

The Ribbon-cutting on the Southcenter expansion is set to take place on Friday morning, and once it does, I’ll be sure to head over and check it out.  If all goes well, I am also looking at putting together the profile for Southcenter sometime in the near future.

July 10, 2008

Factoria Mall Redevelopment Update: The Beginning is Near (Updated)

Filed under: Bellevue, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:55 am

Update 7/10:  The photos I was unable to upload when I first wrote this have now been added.  I have added some additional info as well.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on the situation at Factoria Mall, but a number of recent moves seem to indicate that the beginning of the construction process that will eventually turn the mall into the Marketplace at Factoria will be coming soon, and in some places has even actually begun.  After the jump, a summary of some of the changes that have going on at Factoria recently in preparation for the long anticipated redevelopment. 


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