Our View: State Farm should act ‘like a good neighbor’ and market site to buyer who would use its buildingA municipal sign welcoming travelers into Woodbury sits on the east side of Radio Drive just south of I-94.
A municipal sign welcoming travelers into Woodbury sits on the east side of Radio Drive just south of I-94.
Behind the sign is a spacious 95-acre property and a nearly 500,000-square-foot building that has been essentially empty and unused for nearly five years. It once held more than 1,500 employees of State Farm Insurance.
In 2003 State Farm announced it would close its Woodbury branch and move many of its employees to a branch in Lincoln, Neb. Over the next 36 months employees were either laid off or moved to Lincoln or a smaller branch in Mendota Heights. State Farm placed the empty facility, recently estimated to be worth around $35 million, on the market.
So where are the interested buyers?
Have there been any at all?
It goes without saying that the recent state of the economy does not make for optimum conditions for State Farm to find a buyer.
The rumors floating around lately are that there might not be any real interest in the property as long as the building remains.
Some are saying the property would market better as retail or a mix of retail and office space, and that if State Farm finds a bidder of that ilk it will demolish the building. But anyone who lives or works in the community knows that rumors have been a part of the State Farm property saga since it began seven years ago.
NorthMarq Real Estate has been shopping the property for State Farm since last fall. Although the building, which was constructed in 1996, has sat unused for about five years, it retains a high rating in measure of an office space’s quality, NorthMarq representatives have said.
We hope State Farm can find a willing investor for not only the property, but the existing building. Just think what adding as many as 1,500 jobs back into the community would do for Woodbury’s housing market and for the nearby retail, which has struggled as of late with business closings and turnover of commercial space in Tamarack Village and Woodbury Lakes.
The real question that cannot be answered by rumors or speculation is whether there is a company out there willing to make the move to the site. We sure hope so.
Ultimately any movement on the property is probably better than none at all. But we believe the best use of the property is one that utilizes the existing building and would bring many jobs back to Woodbury that were lost when State Farm decided to leave.
We realize that businesses, whether large or small, have to make tough decisions all the time. We realize that at the end of the day State Farm will make a decision on what to do with the property that best suits its bottom line.
But we believe the company owes it to the Woodbury community to do everything it can to find a buyer who will use the existing building before making a decision to market it to potential developers who would eliminate the building.
We hope that when all is said and done State Farm will hold true to its motto and be a “good neighbor” in Woodbury while it is still here.