BLOOMINGTON — State Farm already has received interest from potential buyers since announcing Monday afternoon that it plans to sell its 89-year-old original headquarters building in downtown Bloomington.
"There has been interest from a few parties," State Farm spokesman Jim Camoriano said Tuesday.
He declined to say how many inquiries have been received, where they came from or if they expressed interest in a particular type of development for the 200,000-square-foot building.
The company has declined to disclose an asking sale price. The building has a market value of just under $9 million, according to the McLean County assessor's office.
Downtown business owners and patrons interviewed Tuesday by The Pantagraph about potential uses most frequently recommended a hotel, apartments or condominiums, and unique, boutique-style stores.
“I would like to see it turned into a boutique hotel,” said Jan Lancaster, owner of The Bistro, a downtown bar. “I really think we need a hotel downtown and if that doesn’t work, then maybe some condominiums or something along those lines."
"A boutique hotel, that's who I would like to see buy it to draw more people to the community and to have something a little different than what you normally would see in a regular hotel," said Lynne Poindexter, a LeRoy resident who visits downtown Bloomington daily.
The 13-story art deco building at 112 E. Washington St. was constructed in four phases between 1929 and 1947. It served as State Farm's corporate headquarters until 1974.
Hope Metz of Bloomington likes the idea of turning the building into a hotel or apartment building.
“I think some really nice apartments would work in a building like that,” she said. “Also, I think it would make a great hotel. It would be nice to turn the building into something that can benefit the downtown area.”
Marti Deighan, owner of the Yarn Garden, 318 N. Main St., would like to see a mix of boutique-type shops on the lower floors with loft-style apartments above.
"The reason I say boutique-type shops would be nice is because there are a lot of restaurants and bars and tattoo parlors," said Deighan. "It would be nice to have something different."
Locating other unique, destination-type retail stores like hers in the State Farm building would draw people to purchase a particular product and then dine downtown afterward, she said.
Deighan said some of her patrons drive from Springfield or farther afield, "and if they are making an hour or two-hour drive, a lot of times they ask me where a good place for lunch is."
The move of State Farm out of the downtown area has affected all downtown businesses, said Lancaster.
“They were down to about 100 people working in that building and that is when people took notice that there was an issue," she said. "It has affected the restaurant business downtown and many are cutting back on hours for lunch.
"The bakeries downtown don’t have as much business. There just isn’t enough traffic, and that hurts everyone.
“We are striving for a vibrant downtown. Anytime you lose a business that has been a cornerstone for years, it is going to have an effect. But we have to move forward, maintain our focus on rebuilding the downtown and come up with a strong, strategic plan.”