Bloomington residents remain divided over what role the city should play in trying to save State Farm's downtown former headquarters that the company plans to demolish.
That's according to feedback Bloomington City Council member Jenn Carrillo said she has received during two listening sessions and community surveys over the last week.
“That was a thing I kind of already felt in my gut, and I think these listening sessions have confirmed that people have strong feelings, but also on the plus side people can see each other’s argument for or against city intervention to save the building,” Carrillo said.
State Farm recently announced plans to demolish the building after a planned sale fell through.
Carrillo facilitated listening sessions last Friday at Bloomington City Hall and on Wednesday at the McLean County Museum of History. About 50 residents weighed in between the two meetings, while Carrillo is also conducting informal surveys at community events and on social media.
Carrillo said public feedback generally runs the spectrum, from the city trying to take over the building to letting State Farm handle its own property as it wishes.
Carrillo said she plans to present her survey findings to the city council later this month and she hopes State Farm will at least listen to what the community wants.
“They hopefully are going to continue to be a part of our community for a long time, but I also don’t have an expectation that they will,” she said. “I think that we have to be able to appeal to their bottom line which is probably ultimately what they are most concerned about.”
City officials met with State Farm last week. A State Farm spokesperson said after the meeting the company plans to proceed with demolition but remains open to conversation with the city.
A coalition of downtown businesses, residents and other stakeholders has launched an effort to save the building, but the group hasn’t yet announced specific plans.
Carrillo said while she would like to see the building saved, she doesn’t have a specific vision for what it could become if it were to be repurposed.
“I don’t have anything specific in mind, but my brain is working out how we make it happen, but certainly my heart wants to see the building saved,” Carrillo said. “Are those two things going to meet in the middle yet, I don’t know yet.
“I know it is a super-important cultural landmark and to lose it would be absolutely devastating, and at the same time I have to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and make the decision based on that responsibility."
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