The company that is taking over the former State Farm building in downtown Bloomington has secured its first tenant, prompting the developer to abandon its plans to build luxury apartments.
Keplr Vision of Bloomington has announced it has signed a multiyear agreement to consolidate its corporate offices from three current facilities to 112 E. Washington St.
Rockford-based Urban Equity Properties announced in November it bought the historic building after State Farm tried for over a year to sell it and had announced plans to demolish the 200,000-square foot building.
Urban Equity Properties planned to convert the building into upscale apartments, but Chief Operating Officer Jeff Orduno said securing Keplr as an anchor tenant makes the building more viable as office space.
“Sometimes it’s harder to bring great businesses downtown than it is to bring individual residents,” Orduno said. "That’s why we view this as a unique opportunity with Kepler.”
Orduno added the business shift wasn’t a reflection on UEP’s expectations to fill the apartments.
“This has nothing to do with the viability of apartments. This has everything to do with the opportunity to bring Keplr to downtown Bloomington,” Orduno said.
Keplr’s executive team, business support services and supply chain management departments (totaling more than 100 employees) will occupy the top four floors of the 13-story structure, according to a company news release.
Kelpr plans to hire an additional 75 employees by the end of the year and could expand to an additional floor.
“I am thrilled to be making this announcement because I know how much it means to the people of Bloomington to see the State Farm Building come back to life,” Keplr CEO and co-founder Nick Williams said in a statement. “There have been a lot of negative headlines about downtown lately, and it’s time for that to change!”
“Keplr Vision’s move is a game-changer for downtown Bloomington,” said Justin Fern, founding principal of Urban Equity Properties. “State Farm’s foresight in preserving this landmark building will benefit the community for years to come. We look forward to welcoming more businesses to 112 East Washington.”
Keplr hasn't provided a timeline for moving into the building, but said it wants to preserve the historic look and feel of the building, so renovations will be minimal.
“Our team is grateful to transition into a space that can accommodate our rapid growth and excited to work in such an important community landmark," said Keplr Chief Development Officer Jared Hall. "We hope our investment in downtown Bloomington will be the catalyst project for further development.
Keplr started in Bloomington in 2005 with one All About Eyes location. The company has grown to more than 20 locations throughout Illinois and Iowa. It now partners with more than 140 independent optometry practices across the United States. Keplr also employs more than 80 employees at Identity Lab, an independent lens lab and eyeglass manufacturing facility in Normal.
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