The shopping center got its start in 1944, when Kemper Freeman Sr. began buying property with the help of his father, Miller Freeman. Building materials during wartime were hard to come by, but the Freemans were able to convince the government to give them permission to build a movie theater as a homefront morale booster. Construction began before war's end, and the 550-seat Bel-Vue Theatre opened on March 20, 1946.
Next to open were the Kandy Kane and the Crabapple Restaurants, both of which became popular meeting places for years to come. After that came Frederick & Nelson, a Seattle-based department store that promised to rent a small one-story building for three years, during which time they only sold women's and children's clothing.
Bellevue Square's grand opening on August 20, 1946, was heralded by searchlights, an orchestra, and a live radio broadcast. The shopping center proved to be a success, and within a few years Frederick & Nelson moved into a much larger building. Later still, the Square attracted other department stores such as the Bon Marche, Nordstrom, and J.C. Penney.