South Barrington rushes to save Allstate building

Updated 3/22/2012 5:42 AM

South Barrington officials are in a race for time to save a massive campus owned by Allstate Corp. that could be demolished in the next month or so in a cost-cutting measure.

The 64-acre campus near the Jane Addams Tollway -- which contributes about $1.4 million in real estate taxes to the village, school district and other taxing bodies -- means more to the area than just taxes, said Village President Frank J. Munao Jr.

It's the loss of potential, of a future where another company could move in, employ more people, and provide more stability for the local economy, Munao said.

"Many years ago (about 1980), I was among those who helped to break the ground there, shoveled out the dirt," Munao said. "I never, ever would have thought I would live to see that building go down."

Still, Allstate has had that building on sale and couldn't find the right deal, especially during a sour economy when commercial buildings are a glut on the market.

The insurer moved about 800 employees from South Barrington to its Northbrook headquarters earlier this month as part of a consolidation announced in 2010. Demolition allows the company to save on maintenance costs, Allstate spokesman Kevin Smith said Wednesday.

"The South Barrington property has been on the market since 2007 and no acceptable offers have been received," Smith said. "With the high vacancy rates in the area and the significant costs of maintaining the complex, it makes more sense economically to demolish the facility than to maintain it."

Munao said he's authorized the village attorney to look into how the village can work out a deal with Allstate. That could include tax-free status until a new tenant is found, allowing the building to remain intact and provide possibilities for the future, he said.

But since the local real estate market is still in limbo, Munao isn't expecting a last-minute miracle.

"I've never dealt with something like this before," Munao said. "I'm not upset at Allstate. I'm just sad about the situation and the economy and what's happening to that building. They haven't even approached us yet about getting tax relief, but we're willing to work something out. It's a shame to tear it down. Let's give it one last try."

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