Hair today, gone tomorrow. The Bellevue Barber Shop, a community landmark owned by Ward Russell since 1947, is about to give way to a multimillion-dollar...

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Hair today, gone tomorrow.

The Bellevue Barber Shop, a community landmark owned by Ward Russell since 1947, is about to give way to a multimillion-dollar condo and retail development.

Sale of the property — the final piece of several parcels on the southwest corner of Main Street and Bellevue Way Southeast being sold to a Spokane development company — is pending.

SRM Development already has spent more than $13 million on the lots, which include Toy’s Cafe, Bellevue Florist, KFC, Goodyear Auto Service Center and the Bellevue Pawn Shop.

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The Eastside Heritage Society says it plans to challenge the business community to save the barbershop building.

“There aren’t many buildings of that age around,” said Mike Luis, interim director of the heritage society. “The Bellevue Barber Shop is a community icon. My dad went there. I took my son there for his first haircut. We’d like to see the building saved and moved.”

Bellevue has no ordinances to protect historical buildings, said Matt Terry, director of planning and community development.

Whatever is built, he added, would have to adhere to height limits of 60 feet for commercial and 95 feet for residential. A mixed-use building could be built to the higher of the two figures.

For more than a decade, heritage advocates and Bellevue promoters, including the Chamber of Commerce and Bellevue Downtown Association, have touted Old Main as a charming historical district.

But the label and the area’s historical significance — the blocks between Bellevue Way and 100th Avenue Northeast are considered the birthplace of local commerce — haven’t saved a number of older buildings from being torn down, including Bellevue’s original city hall.

The Bellevue Barber Shop has weathered many changes over the years.

The wood-frame building survived the December 2001 fire that devastated the 30,000-square-foot Main Place Building next door. The tongue-and-groove paneled walls were there in the 1970s and 1980s when longer hair for men was the style and business was slow. Although an addition on the back expanded the space, little has changed inside or out since it opened as Wright’s Barber Shop in 1927.

Russell purchased the business in 1947 for $1,200. Bellevue, with 5,000 residents, wasn’t even a city. He charged $1 for men’s haircuts, 75 cents for boys’. His nephew Vic Russell and grandson Kurt Hester operate the shop today.

Andy Loos, the development manager for SRM Development, said the company is still in negotiations for the Bellevue Barber Shop site.

“We’re not going to start tearing stuff down tomorrow,” he said. “There are still some leases out there on the other property, and we don’t expect to close with the Russells until January.”

An effort to save the building was news to the two barbers working there yesterday. Hester said it was the first they’d heard of the plan.

Even if the sale is completed in January, they expect to stay open until July 2006. They’re talking about finding an interim location because Loos already has offered them space in the new development.

Wherever they go, the two expect to continue one longtime Bellevue Barber Shop tradition — collecting Bellevue High School yearbooks.

Ward Russell started it in 1947, purchasing a Bellevue High School annual. He bought the annuals to help entertain customers and to support the community — Bellevue was the only high school in town then. He bought a book every year and managed to fill in his collection back to 1924. Part of the collection is now stored at the Eastside Heritage Society.

“We’ll take the books with us,” Hester said. “We’ll have to build a new rack, but they’ll be part of the shop.”

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com

Eastside reporter Natalie Singer contributed to this report.