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Updated: A New Beginning for the Old State Farm Building

President of potential buyer Wellington Management says redevelopment plans are in the works, but zoning issues still need to be resolved.

Wellington Management, Inc., is looking to redevelop the former State Farm building in Woodbury with $68 million in investments.

Plans include converting the building for multi-tenant use, building a new Costco on the property and the construction of a 200-unit senior housing development, said Steve Wellington, president of the eponymous company.

In addition, a second $50 million phase of the overall development plan envisions a new 120-room hotel and three additional office buildings.

"I thought his plan was quite unique—to break it up into four core identities," said Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens.

St. Paul-based Wellington Management has yet to finalize the deal to buy the former State Farm building, Wellington said, but entered into a purchase agreement in August 2010. He would not disclose the terms.

Wellington said there are some zoning issues at the 100-acre site to resolve before the deal is completed.

“It’s too risky for us if (the city is) not willing to consider other uses,” Wellington told Woodbury Patch.

City Administrator Clint Gridley said Wellington has merely proposed a concept plan for the site, not an application for development. The proposal would require zoning changes to the city's Comprehensive Plan, which was updated last year, he said.

"That is a significant change," Gridley said.

A zoning change for the parcel would require public hearings, and traffic and environmental analysis, Gridley said.

"We're obviously interested in preserving this property," Gridley said. "It serves as a gateway to Woodbury."

The 420,000-square-foot building along Radio Drive near Interstate 94 has been vacant since 2004, when State Farm moved several of those jobs to Lincoln, Neb.

“We feel we can fill the State Farm building with 1,800 new professional jobs,” Wellington said in a statement. “This is an exceptionally high quality property that cannot be replicated anytime soon. We already have one major company interested in 30 percent of the building. We are certain that others will follow if we can just get the cooperation we need from the city to move ahead.”

The Woodbury City Council is expected to discuss the State Farm building’s future at a workshop on Wednesday.

“We need the city to modify its zoning code to permit retail and housing to coexist with the office developments we have proposed,” Wellington said in the statement. “Without strong support from the city for this mixed-use zoning, we cannot proceed.”

At Wednesday's meeting, the council will likely discuss the status of the State Farm building and options for its future, Gridley said. Woodbury leaders hoped the building would have been sold by now, he said, and the city may look at what it can do to spur redevelopment of the site.

"We've tried to let the free market do its thing," Gridley said.

Wellington told Patch that it would be easier to find several smaller tenants than one large renter for the space, but added that one Fortune 500 company has been “knocking on the door.” Still, the deal hinges on city approval of the rezoning request.

Not having the property redeveloped “would be a big step back for Woodbury,” Wellington said.

Lisa Doroshenko, a Costco media-relations worker, would not confirm that the retailer is planning to build a new store in Woodbury. She did say that the company has looked at expansion at five different sites in Minnesota, and Woodbury is among them. Costco currently has six stores in Minnesota, the newest in Burnsville.

According to a press release from Wellington Management, State Farm is currently paying $200,000 per month to maintain the property and has indicated that it could be forced to demolish the building.

“We realize that it will be expensive to convert this beautiful corporate headquarters into a multi-tenant property,” Wellington said in the release. “But we are confident that this will attract new companies to Woodbury.”

Toni Isenberg Halfmann January 19, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Creating more jobs within Woodbury, senior housing is a must, hotel...not so sure (need to see the numbers) and maybe a great place or venue for kids to teens could be incorporated. Win win by using the existing building! Why not re-zone?
Erik Knutson January 21, 2011 at 06:43 AM
Thanks for bringing us a Super Target but now how about a Macy's?? I think a Costco is a great idea but also think Woodbury really needs to consider putting in a Macy's. Woodbury is growing fast and for us not to have a Macy's doesn't make sense. A big department store like Macy's would do great in our community and bring many jobs to the area. Thank you.
Brian Conners January 21, 2011 at 05:58 PM
This uniquely large building has obviously been difficult to sell to a single tennant and that prospect is unlikely to change in the forseeable future. Rezoning certainly seems to be the best option. Tearing it down, an option being seriously considered by State Farm doesn't seem to be best use of our natural resources. Although there would likely be some negative financial and or legal ramifications to rezoning, the long term financial and social impact of moving forward with this proposal would far outweigh them. Let's get on board.
Baxtron March 07, 2011 at 08:55 PM
It will probably be cheaper for COSTCO to buy some undeveloped dirt and build from scratch. They threw up that Maplewood location in no time flat. Either way I would start living at COSTCO.
ThePuppy July 27, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Living wage-paying jobs, mixed zoning to help reduce the need for travel (rush hour is NOT fun), this seems a win-win situation.

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