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Originally published September 3, 2014 at 4:25 PM | Page modified September 4, 2014 at 5:23 PM

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J.C. Penney store at Bellevue Square closing

J.C. Penney to leave Bellevue Square by November. Kemper Development plans to redesign space for smaller specialty stores.

Seattle Times business reporter

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After 55 years in Bellevue Square, J.C. Penney is shutting its doors. Its last day of operation will be on or about Nov. 1.

Kemper Development marketing director Jennifer Leavitt said the J.C. Penney space will be redesigned to accommodate multiple, smaller specialty stores and some common area for shoppers — much like what the company did when Frederick & Nelson closed in 1992, she said.

“We don’t have space available very often,” Leavitt said. “There are some great, exciting retailers out there that we have not been able to accommodate, and this gives us an opportunity to design for that.”

The development company is already in discussion with prospective tenants and is in the design phase. The goal, she said, is to have the new stores open by the start of the holiday season.

Penney’s has been trying to bounce back after declining sales under the leadership of former Chief Executive Ron Johnson. In January, the retailer announced it would be closing 33 underperforming stores as part of its turnaround efforts.

In a statement, J.C. Penney spokesman Joseph Thomas said closing this store is a step toward meeting the company’s goals for future growth.

“As we continue our turnaround, an important part of our work is identifying opportunities that enable J.C. Penney to maximize long-term growth and profitability,” he said. “While it’s never an easy decision to close stores, especially due to the impact on our valued associates and customers, we feel this is a necessary business decision.”

Three other Penneys are in the area: Alderwood mall, Northgate Mall and Westfield Southcenter mall.

The Bellevue Square store is nearly 200,000 square feet and anchors the southern end of the mall — next to Gap Kids, Victoria’s Secret and Claire’s.

Real-estate developer Kemper Freeman had previously tried to buy out J.C. Penney’s lease to update the space.

“J.C. Penney has been an important part of the history of Bellevue Square and change is never easy,” Leavitt said. “But retail is always evolving.”

Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or On Twitter @coralgarnick

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