On August 22, the Bellevue Center went out much like it came in…with a celebration. In August of 1990, the mall opened with a celebration featuring various musicians, including guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins. While the demolition party featured more politicians on the stage than local celebrities, the celebrations had the same theme: Progress for Bellevue.
The mall had a steady run through most of the 90’s. In 1999, Sears was built and completed Bellevue Center. A large percentage of Bellevue’s restaurants called Bellevue Center home: Chick-Fil-A, Frank & Stein (Hot dogs & beer), Sbarro Pizza, along with others rounded out the food court. Princeton’s Grille featured a menu with a variety of entrees, including a Caribbean Ribeye and a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich that were some of the best grub available in Bellevue at the time...and sorely missed. Princeton’s also featured a separate bar area with an elegant wood grain bar not typical of many mall restaurants.
The center of the mall featured a stadium style playground that was a destination for many parents. It was large enough for children to run and have a blast, and featured enough seating for parents and tired shoppers to “people watch”. Most of the playground equipment is still around today at a local church and daycare, just a few minutes from it's original home.
Somewhere along the early 2000’s, the mall began to change. Fewer shoppers meant less revenue for stores that required a high volume of revenue. Stores began to close and were replaced by local vendors and not the typical mall “chain stores”. Many shoppers felt that the mall experience was gone and chose to shop elsewhere. By this time, the elegant wood grain bar at Princeton’s Grille was now the prize station for Say Cheese Pizza. Things had changed. Being more of a flea market than a mall, Bellevue Center eventually closed in 2008.
The huge crowd that came out to the Bellevue Center Demolition Party was a mix of residents. Many were long time Bellevue residents that were seeking closure for their once beloved mall. Others in the crowd moved to Bellevue since the mall closed and were just excited that a new development was on the way. Either way, it was a celebration for all…a celebration of Bellevue’s past and future.