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Saturday, January 21, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Safeway flagship store planned in Bellevue

Seattle Times retail reporter

After a decade of chatter, Safeway has firmed up plans to open a Northwest flagship store in downtown Bellevue.

Safeway had already swapped the 2-acre site of its existing store for 3.7 acres to the south owned by developer Kemper Freeman Jr.

The grocery-store chain plans to use its new location at 300 Bellevue Way to build a 55,000-square-foot store as part of a larger retail, grocery and apartment complex. Washington, D.C.-based AvalonBay will develop the apartments.

Cherie Myers, spokeswoman for Safeway Pacific Northwest, said the store would be about 10,000-square-feet larger than a typical location and atypical of its other stores.

"Whatever we feel is the latest-and-greatest will be inside the store," she said.

Freeman said the Safeway project will break ground in the next 30 days.

Kemper Development, which owns Bellevue Square, and the hotel and office building Bellevue Place, has sought to change the character of downtown Bellevue.

In 2000, it added street-front, pedestrian-friendly retail with a 100,000-square-foot development anchored by Crate & Barrel at the corner of Bellevue Way and Northeast Eighth.

Kemper last year opened its $500 million, 1.4 million-square-foot Lincoln Square, furthering its plans to make Eighth reminiscent of Chicago's Magnificent Mile or Boston's Newbury Street.

After Safeway completes its new store in mid-2007, Freeman plans to turn the former grocery site into a mixed-used development similar to Lincoln Square.

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"We have two years to see," Freeman said of plans to develop the location. "If the market isn't there, we'll stop."

Safeway's plans come at a time when the residential population is booming in downtown Bellevue. The city forecast the number of downtown residences should triple to 10,000 over the next 14 years.

Myers said Safeway originally planned to expand its existing store but found the site too small for its plans. "We have waited to do this for a long, long time," she said. "We're finally seeing some daylight."

Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com

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