Our view: State Farm building gets second chanceAbout five years after the halls in its sprawling space went silent, developments surrounding the State Farm Insurance building are suddenly beginning to make a lot of noise.
About five years after the halls in its sprawling space went silent, developments surrounding the State Farm Insurance building are suddenly beginning to make a lot of noise.
First, real estate developer Steve Wellington – who last summer placed a purchase option on the property – announced plans to redevelop the site with a mix of commercial retail, financial services and senior housing.
Not long after his multimillion-dollar proposal began circulating, Woodbury city staff presented City Council with their own plan to help occupy the State Farm building: Hiring a law firm to map out a strategy that would lure prospective occupants to the site – a plan that the firm could turn into a legislative proposal.
The building could be about to get a second chance.
Yet all of these proposed actions are still in preliminary stages.
Wellington knows his proposal requires extensive land-use changes that would require a lengthy public process. That request has not been submitted yet for city consideration. He also knows there may be hesitation among some city leaders to introduce another major retailer to the community.
The city’s plan is also at its embryonic level. It first needs approval from council members at tonight’s meeting. If that is green-lighted, the law firm – which could be in line for up to $50,000 from the city for its services – will only then begin its work. Even if the firm draws up legislation for tax incentives or other economic carrots, there’s no guarantee lawmakers in St. Paul will take action on it, let alone get a bill to the governor’s desk.
It’s no secret the State Farm campus is a coveted asset for Woodbury. Now, as signs of momentum begin to emerge, the issue is also under the gun: Wellington says State Farm is considering leveling the structure rather than coughing up more monthly payments to hold on to the building. State Farm officials say that’s not their preferred option, but don’t rule it out.
Time, as City Administrator Clint Gridley rightfully stated last week, is of the essence.
The city must now walk the delicate line between being expedient and comprehensive.
Given the thoughtful, deliberate approach the city has taken toward development in its relatively young existence, there’s little reason to doubt that will continue to be the rule. But with public dollars poised to flow into economic development for the property, residents have a right to expect that it gets done right.
That’s what second chances are all about.