A community task force that's looking for ways to save State Farm's former downtown headquarters isn't looking for the City of Bloomington to take over the building, according to one of its members who previously served on the city council.
Former city council member Karen Schmidt said the Save our State Farm Building group is looking for private developers who could renovate the 90-year-old structure.
"I've heard overwhelming support for this... I think there's a lot of caution though that the city not take on more real estate and more financial burdens," Schmidt said. "We have heard a lot of really interesting ideas and I think we would very much appreciate the opportunity to explore those and to see what we can do to keep that building being a vital part of our downtown."
Schmidt, who served 16 years on the city council, is one of 17 downtown stakeholders named to the group. It released the names of the committee members on Monday. It includes elected officials, urban planners, educators, historic preservation experts and others.
The group is asking State Farm to allow more time for the community to explore alternate options to spare the 90-year-old building from demolition.
Bloomington city officials met with company representatives earlier this month and are hopeful a developer will emerge after a planned sale of the building fell through last month.
Schmidt's successor on the city council, Jenn Carrillo, has hosted two listening sessions to gauge public feedback on what role the city should play in facilitating a deal to save the building.
State Farm officials have said they plan to move ahead with demolition, but they are open to more talks with the city.
Frank Butterfield, Director of the Landmarks Illinois office in Springfield and task force member, said developers would likely be able to secure state and federal tax credits for renovations.
“This is an icon for Central Illinois,” Butterfield declared. “It’s got a rich architectural history. It’s got a rich history in the development of a significant Illinois corporation, but really what it can have is a wonderful future.”
Historian Greg Koos said the group is currently working on public information and committee initiatives.
Members of the task force include:
- Greg Koos, historian
- Karen Schmidt, former Bloomington City Council member
- Tari Renner, Mayor of Bloomington
- Jamie Mathy, Bloomington City Council member
- Chris Koos, Mayor of Normal
- Russel Francois, architect
- Vicki and Tim Tilton, downtown Bloomington property and business owners
- Frank Butterfield, Landmarks Illinois
- Jeanne Howard, sociologist
- Brad Williams, historic preservation contractor
- Bill Kemp, historian
- Alan Lessoff, urban planning scholar
- Hannah Johnson, educator
- Candace Summers, educator
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in Central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.