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Retail, senior housing proposed for State Farm campus

Woodbury Bulletin file photo

One of Woodbury's most conspicuously vacant properties could be open for business this fall if a Twin Cities real estate developer has his way.

Wellington Management seeks to redevelop the State Farm Insurance building, with plans to bring 2,100 jobs to the location, which has sat empty since 2005.

Steve Wellington, president of Wellington Management, proposes renovating the 420,000 square-foot complex for multiple uses - including the addition of a major retailer - to the tune of $68 million.

He said plans call for an $18 million renovation he said is poised to house a Twin Cities-based financial institution, which he declined to name. Initial plans also call for a 150,000 square-foot retail location and a 200-unit senior housing facility with a memory care operation. Wellington has received a signed letter of intent from a senior housing developer, he said.

"I feel there is a real good opportunity to get that property moving," Wellington told the Woodbury Bulletin of the State Farm campus, located at Radio Drive and Interstate 94.

According to a Wellington news release, the retail location development would cost $20 million, while the senior complex comes with a $30 million price tag.

The would-be retailer is wholesale giant Costco, Wellington said. A Costco spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment on the proposal, though Wellington said the retailer "doesn't intend to get drawn into the discussion" at the preliminary stage.

If all goes according to plan, the building would be renovated and occupied in "early fall," Wellington said.

A second phase of development - slated at $50 million - could site a 120-room hotel and three more office buildings on the State Farm campus, according to Wellington's plans.

Woodbury City Council members are scheduled to discuss the State Farm property at Wednesday's workshop session.

Wellington said he is first "seeking general encouragement" from the council, which he said has thus far delivered mixed reviews to his proposal. He ultimately hopes to receive approval for mixed-use zoning at the property, which currently allows only office-related uses.

That won't come at Wednesday's meeting, said City Administrator Clint Gridley.

He said council members will instead discuss "options and strategies" for marketing the State Farm site without specific reference to the Wellington proposal. Gridley said that's because the city has only been notified of Wellington's concept plan and has not received a formal land-use request.

If a land-use request is made, the proposal would undergo extensive public hearings to address matters including traffic flow, environmental issues and storm water.

"That's not a small step," Gridley said of such land-use requests. "It's a big matter."

Wellington said he hopes council members don't see the proposal as a referendum on a potential Costco store.

"It really isn't," he said, noting that just 16 of the campus' 100 acres would be slated for retail development. "We need a basic zoning decision first."

Wellington said he would not be seeking public subsidy for the project.

State Farm is the owner of the property, though Wellington Management in August 2010 entered into a purchase agreement with the firm.

"We have deposited a substantial amount of earnest money, but we do not have a binding contractual obligation," he said in an e-mail to the Woodbury Bulletin.

Wellington said his company has negotiated an extension of the agreement and could purchase the property, but won't until zoning has been modified.

According to Wellington Management information, State Farm pays approximately $200,000 a month to keep the Woodbury property in its current condition. If a deal can't be reached on the development, Wellington said State Farm is considering demolishing the building due to cost concerns.

"We're feeling some urgency," he said, noting that his firm would "fold our tents and go away" without city approval.

Gridley said the city considers the State Farm site "a very important piece of property" and a gateway feature.

"Our first desire is to preserve the building," he said.

State Farm spokesperson Ann Avery said the company says demolition of the building "is not our preferred option."

"We would prefer to close on the sale," she said.

She declined to confirm how much State Farm pays on the building, saying the company "doesn't share cost-related" data.

Avery said the company had no comment on other aspects of the proposal.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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