"These are market-rate luxury units. These aren't going to be affordable housing," said Justin Fern, founding principal of Rockford-based Urban Equity Properties LLC, the prospective buyer. "We don't do any affordable. We are only luxury apartment builders."

"We are under contract to purchase the building. We are shooting for early October to close on the (sale)," said UEP spokesman Jim Hagerty.

Construction on Bloomington Lofts is anticipated to begin July 1, 2020, and be completed by June 30, 2022, said Hagerty.

"All said and done, this development will come with a cost of about $40 million," said Hagerty.

UEP has not asked for incentives from the city to help with renovation costs, Hagerty said.

"That's not something that has really been sought after at this point because I think the rest of the package works for now," he added. "I shouldn't say that's not ever going to be discussed, but we have not approached the city on any local incentives.

"The property is a contributing building in a historic district so it is eligible for federal historic tax credits and I know we will be utilizing those," said Hagerty. "We've used those on many projects. As far as state incentives, we haven't nailed those down yet."

Bloomington Lofts' amenities will include kitchens with granite countertops and gourmet stainless steel appliances, said Fern.

"But also the building will contain private fitness centers and lounges just for the tenants, and there will be a ground-floor cafe/restaurant that our tenets and the public can utilize."

The only retail space would be the cafe, added Hagerty.

"I don't have the count yet, but typically we are building more one-bedrooms than twos," said Fern.

Because the building is in "wonderful condition," there's not a lot of remediation, if any, to be done before starting renovation, said Hagerty.

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"Like them, we did not want this building to be torn down," said Hagerty. "We are going to quell all of those fears and just move forward. We realize from past experiences that once you lose a building with this much history, you lose much more than brick and mortar. You lose its history. You lose the memories. Even if they're preserved in photos and archives, those are just wiped out."

UEP contacted State Farm directly, said Fern.

"It went into fruition fairly quick," he added. "State Farm has been a really great company to work with. They really are putting community first, just like we do when it comes to our projects."

The purchase price was not disclosed.

In its 12 years, UEP's larger projects have included 10 in Rockford and two in Aurora.

In downtown Rockford, Burnham Lofts features 62 units in the former Rockford Trust Building. Residences at Talcott features a mix of retail, office space and 49 luxury apartments in a 13-story former office building.

"When you think about projects like the State Farm building, those are very similar in size," said Mark Williams, economic development manager for the city of Rockford. Those cost $16 million and $20-plus million, respectively.

Williams said the company's work has been "a key to bringing life back into our downtown," including revitalizing historic buildings. The Rockford Trust Building was built in 1907, and Talcott was built in 1925. Parts of State Farm's downtown Bloomington building are about 90 years old.

"(UEP) took advantage of a redevelopment zone with federal historic tax credits. ... They're really good at what they do. They know what they're doing," Williams said. "(UEP) has been a great partner with us. When you start bringing lofts downtown where people can live, that's a big thing."

The company currently is converting the six-story former Terminal Building in downtown Aurora into luxury apartments with a restaurant on the ground floor. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 2005.

UEP also is converting the four-story former Keystone Building in Aurora. It was added to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places on March 18, 1980.

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

Derek Beigh contributed to this report.



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