BLOOMINGTON — A group of community leaders, business owners and neighbors want State Farm to allow more time to identify private developers interested in preserving the insurer's former corporate headquarters in downtown Bloomington.
The company has slated the vacant building at 112 E. Washington St. for demolition.
"We are now working to identify private developers who have a proven track record of reviving such properties," said the Save Our State Farm Building Committee in a statement released Monday.
The first step in that process is getting more information about the building itself to share with prospective developers, committee spokesman Greg Koos said.
"Demolition at this time is precipitous and wasteful," the committee added in its statement. "The building has stood for nearly 90 years.
"For the long-term economic health of this community, it is logical to allow time to find a solution," the group said. "State Farm is worth nearly $250 billion dollars. They can afford it."
State Farm announced on July 18 plans to demolish its downtown building after a potential sale fell through. The insurer cited the continued costs of maintaining the building and the negative impact on downtown of leaving it vacant.
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"My understanding is State Farm is moving toward immediate demolition and the kind of work to identify the funding, the right development company, the right people to do a project like this will take some time," said Koos. "And that time is a longer span of time that it will take State Farm to ask for a demolition permit from the city of Bloomington."
More than 50 people who attended two recent community forums shared varying viewpoints on the building's fate — from letting State Farm tear down it down to having the city spearhead its future development through a public-private partnership to focusing on private development and keeping the city out of the process.
The committee said its goal is to benefit Bloomington's economic future, to better its environmental practices and to preserve a key historical and cultural landmark.
The group said seeking a redevelopment that keeps the structure on the tax rolls was important, especially for the Bloomington School District 87, which is landlocked and has no new land to grow on.
"The only way it can be funded, in an era of rising costs, it to have the property in the district rise in value. To keep the tax base of (District) 87 healthy we, as a community, must reinvest in central city neighborhoods, not disinvest," the committee stated.
The committee includes: Koos, a historian; Karen Schmidt, community activist and former Ward 6 alderwoman; Mayors Tari Renner of Bloomington and Chris Koos of Normal; Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy; Russel Francois, architect; Vicki and Tim Tilton, downtown Bloomington property and business owners; Frank Butterfield of Landmarks Illinois; Jeanne Howard, sociologist; Brad Williams, historic preservation contractor; Bill Kemp, historian; Alan Lessoff, urban planning scholar; educators Hannah Johnson and Candace Summer; Andy Streenz, local businessman; and Mike McNeil, past downtown Bloomington manager.
Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle