State Farm To Sell Downtown Building | WGLT

State Farm To Sell Downtown Building

Apr 9, 2018

State Farm told City of Bloomington leaders Monday it plans to sell its newly vacated downtown building.

State Farm met Monday afternoon with Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen, and others to discuss marketing the 200,000-square-foot property. It's located along East Street between Washington and Jefferson streets in the heart of downtown.

"We are in the early stages of this process, and details have not been finalized," State Farm said in a statement. "When appropriate, we’ll share additional information."

State Farm’s downtown workforce has been shrinking for years. The Bloomington-based insurer announced in January that the final 150 workers would be out by Feb. 1, leaving the building essentially vacant.

"We are in the early stages of this process, and details have not been finalized."

The company said the move was part of a larger shift toward more collaborative physical workspaces for employees, making more segmented office space like the downtown building less useful. Remodeling at other local State Farm offices has created more open floor plans, small-group areas, and conference rooms.

"We will remove and preserve items of historical value from the building and are considering ways to continue to honor this part of our company’s heritage," State Farm said Monday.

State Farm's move to sell the building presents another economic development opportunity—and challenge—for city leaders looking to revitalize downtown Bloomington. There are now several large commercial vacancies downtown, including the Front and Center building, the former Pantagraph building, and now State Farm's old headquarters, among others.

Renner told GLT he wasn't surprised by State Farm's plans to sell.

"Given the size of the building, it's hard to imagine it's going to be a single use (in the future), unless it was something like an office building for a company or a hotel. It could be multiple uses, and that's fine as well," said Renner, suggesting a developer could buy the building and sell or lease pieces of it.

Renner said State Farm did not disclose the price tag.

"I look forward to working with them and whoever the new buyer is to do whatever we can to ensure that whatever the use is, that it's the highest and best use for our downtown, and that it continues to be an asset for our downtown," said Renner.

State Farm's final 150 workers exited soon after the city’s Downtown Bloomington Task Force issued its final report, recommending the exploration of a “catalyst” project to drive more daily foot traffic into the area. One version of that catalyst—a joint library-transit project—failed to gain traction with city leaders.

Renner said in January that city leaders were already thinking about potential new uses for the State Farm building, including a new City Hall. (Renner called it far from a polished idea.)

State Farm’s downtown building is an iconic part of the Bloomington-Normal skyline. It was built in pieces. The first floors were completed in 1929, a new home for retired farmer and insurance salesman George Jacob “G.J.” Mecherle’s growing 7-year-old company. The final stories weren’t added until 1945.

The building served as State Farm’s headquarters until 1974. It was once home to 400 to 500 employees.

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