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BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

City, EDC: Pending sale of downtown State Farm building 'outstanding news'

'That building has a lot of history ... and we hope to breathe some new life and energy into it'

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Traffic and pedestrians pass by the historic State Farm downtown Bloomington office building on March 6, 2019. Broker Jill Guth of Guth & Associates, Champaign, said on March 4, 2019, there are "multiple parties" interested in leasing space in the historic building.

BLOOMINGTON — State Farm has a buyer for its iconic downtown Bloomington building.

The Bloomington-based insurer told The Pantagraph Wednesday morning that the company has entered into a purchase agreement "with an interested buyer," but did not identify the buyer.

“With our approval, the buyer has begun marketing the property for lease as office space to potential tenants,” spokesman Chris Pilcic told the newspaper.

Both parties anticipate closing on the deal this summer and State Farm has begun work to remove and preserve historical items from the building, he added.

Signing off

A State Farm film crew documents Sean Arnstrom, left, of Ryan Companies, and Andrew Baker, of Conrad Sheet Metal, as they remove the last of the brass signs that marked the State Farm Insurance Building at Washington and East Streets Friday, March 1, 2019, in downtown Bloomington. 

City and economic development officials were happy to hear of the pending sale.

"This is clearly great news for downtown revitalization and for economic development of our entire community," said Mayor Tari Renner.

"Downtown is a priority for the city, and we stand at the ready to assist and partner in whatever way appropriate," added City Manager Tim Gleason.

"This is outstanding news for the community,' said Zach Dietmeier, spokesman for Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. "From the EDC perspective, we knew it was going to be a challenge to find somebody who had the capacity to use that much space. We are very happy to see that it will be maintained as office space for local business."

The EDC had conversations with some interested parties, "but we don't know who the buyer is," Dietmeier added. "It's a private investment so it might be hard to find out until everything is solidified."

Broker Jill Guth of Guth & Associates, a Champaign-based brokerage firm, declined to identify the buyer, but confirmed the party has agreed to enter into a purchase agreement with State Farm.

“We have a lot between now and closing that needs to happen,” she said. “We  have a 90-day due diligence period which will determine whether we want to move forward with closing on the property.”

“We are working through the sales process with the interested buyer and have nothing further to share at this time,” said Pilcic, public affairs senior specialist for State Farm.

Guth said the interested party recently toured the building.

 “Our due diligence period will extensively look at the mechanical systems of the building,” she said. “It’s an amazing building. It has been kept up. Kudos to State Farm. It is very clean. It is very up to date. But we need to ensure that we understand those mechanical systems and how to maintain that building.”

Early stages of sign removal

A worker secures his safety harness on Oct. 23, 2018, before doing preliminary work to remove the sign atop the west side of the State Farm downtown building. State Farm removed the sign and one on the east side roof line after placing the now-vacant former corporate headquarters for sale.

More  importantly, she added, she and the proposed buyer will spend the next two to three months determining if there is a market for leasing the building.

“Our goal would be for to create opportunities for companies to come in and lease a floor, lease multiple floors, and also create a co-working environment where small companies or companies with one employee can rent a desk or small office and create a co-working environment like an incubator,” she said.

“The first floor could be a retail/restaurant opportunity and it could be multiple retailers or restaurants,” Guth said. “There is an existing kitchen on the first floor and some great space that lends itself to a restaurant. But we have a lot of due diligence to do before we move forward and finalize the agreement.”

“It’s an exciting opportunity. The buyer has a lot of experience in adaptive re-use and redevelopment of buildings and turning projects around or turning buildings around. Obviously that building has a lot of history in downtown Bloomington and we hope to breathe some new life and energy into it.”

State Farm closed the 200,000-square-foot downtown building in January 2018. It was the insurer's original corporate headquarters from 1929 to 1972. It was placed on the market for sale last April.

State Farm's Downtown Building

Five-foot-tall, red letters spelling out the State Farm name could be seen on the roof of the former corporate headquarters building in downtown Bloomington. The iconic signage was removed in October 2018.

State Farm has declined to disclose an asking sale price for the 13-story building that has a market value of just under $9 million, according to the McLean County assessor's office.

At the time of the closing, the company said it was making the move as part of a massive restructuring to better serve its customers. 

The restructuring that began last year has included shifting employees around the country and laying off hundreds of other workers.

The realignment has included the company's information technology divisions, which the company now calls enterprise technology, claims, administrative services divisions and State Farm Bank.


Photos: State Farm to sell former downtown headquarters 

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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