The Eastside is basically where I’ve lived almost all my life. Bellevue didn’t even become a city until 1953…so if anything was to be done, it was simply neighbors getting together to make the Eastside a better place. ” — Kemper
Kemper Freeman is a third-generation resident of Bellevue, Washington. He is principal owner and hands-on leader of Kemper Development Company, which has played an important role in Bellevue’s growth from the early days of downtown to the economic force the city is today.
In all, Kemper has developed a total of 5.5 million square feet of Washington State real estate and manages The Bellevue Collection, comprised of the well-known Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place, and Lincoln Square. The Puget Sound Business Journal says “it would be hard to overstate Freeman’s impact on the Eastside.”
Yet despite his business successes, Kemper says he would rather be operating a tractor than sitting in a board meeting. His first taste of hard work came as a nine-year-old living in Bellevue. He earned 50 cents an hour running a tractor on a dairy farm located at the site of today’s Marymoor Park.
It was there [the farm] that I learned everything you need to do whatever you want to do is at hand. It’s right there in front of you, just look for it.”
Kemper worked farms with his own tractor for the next two decades while also taking on the role of manager for local radio station KFKF.
Best known as a businessman, Kemper is also a community builder and strong supporter of transportation policies he believes will benefit the City of Bellevue and the Seattle region. His involvement comes from a long family line of community advocacy. His grandfather, Miller Freeman, pushed for improved Seattle area transportation as early as 1910 through the creation of the Fishermen’s Terminal. He also advocated strongly for the first bridge constructed to connect Seattle to Bellevue. Kemper Freeman, Sr., Kemper’s father, was the leader in creating the first school district and hospital in Bellevue. In 1972, Kemper went to work for those in Bellevue by serving two terms in the Washington State House of Representatives.
Though he went on to build one of the nation’s most successful shopping centers – Bellevue Square – Kemper today focuses an estimated 30 percent of his awake time not on his own buildings, but on community building. In addition to his support for expanding health and education opportunities and the arts, he is a strong promoter of smart, cost-effective transportation growth between Seattle and Bellevue.
His focus on building Bellevue is perhaps best exemplified by the Bellevue Collection, transformed by Kemper from a once sleepy part of town into a vibrant mixed-use shopping and entertainment center that has brought the best to the Eastside. Kemper’s insistence on the creation of more than 10,000 free parking spaces for the Bellevue Collection has helped ensure its access to all of the Seattle region.
Kemper is a past Chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centers and the association’s Government Relations Committee, and has served as a Trustee since 1987. He serves as a Board Member of Overlake Medical Center and the Performing Arts Center Eastside. Kemper is also an avid Rotarian, having never missed a monthly meeting somewhere in the country.