A group of nearly 20 downtown Bloomington stakeholders is coming together to explore ways to save State Farm’s former headquarters.
A spokesman for Save Our State Farm Building, local historian Greg Koos, said the group first wants to inform the public about the impact demolishing the 90-year-old building would have.
“We really need to ask ourselves as a community, let us look at how these kinds of buildings can have a future,” Koos said. “They do have a future.”
Koos believes State Farm rushed its decision to tear down the iconic building before exploring all possibilities.
“It made as much logic to me as I’m trying to sell my house and the first buyer comes along says ‘I don’t like your house’ and then I say ‘Gee nobody wants my house, I’m going to tear it down,” Koos said.
Bloomington city leaders met with State Farm executives on Thursday to explore ways to save the building.
Company officials said after the meeting they still plan to demolish the building but are willing to continue talks with the city.
“We are always open to conversation with the city, even as we move forward with plans to demolish the building,” State Farm’s Public Affairs Specialist Gina Morss-Fischer said. “We understand there is admiration for, and interest in, the downtown building. As we continue to move forward with the demolition process, we will work with the city and a contractor on permits and ways to minimize any downtown business or traffic disruptions.”
Koos said the 200,000-square foot building is still in excellent shape, following the company’s $12 million renovation in 2004, while it’s open floor plan and natural lighting would make it an ideal home from an information technology firm or similar company.
“The workers of the new information economy really value natural daylight. They value having fresh air in their workspace,” Koos explained. “This kind of building is actually an attraction.”
Koos said even if State Farm can’t identify a buyer right away, it should allow some time for stakeholders to come up with a solution, even if it means maintaining an aging building that has been uninhabited since early 2018.
“State Farm is, what, a $100 billion corporation? They have the ability to maintain that building while the community is searching for solution to it,” Koos said. “The idea that State Farm somehow can’t afford to maintain that building is just laughable.”
Koos added demolishing the building also delivers a big hit to the tax base. State Farm paid $252,000 in property taxes to local taxing bodies for its downtown property. A bulk of the money, $155,000, went to District 87 schools.
Koos also expressed dismay over the environmental impact of tearing down the building instead of finding another use for it.
“The building itself and the preservation of such buildings is an extraordinarily important part of our need as a community to cut the carbon footprint,” Koos said.
Koos said as the group continues meeting, it would like State Farm to appoint a company representative to join them in those discussions. It has also been seeking technical assistance from the historic preservation groups Landmarks Illinois, including architecural engineering and analysis on how similar historic buildings have been repurposed.
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