In a move company officials said is nothing unusual, State Farm Insurance is selling 21.45 acres it owns on Pantops Mountain and vacating 41,000 square feet of office space in Peter Jefferson Place.
The office space the company is leaving is separate from State Farm’s large operations center at the intersection of South Pantops Drive, Peter Jefferson Parkway and State Farm Boulevard.
The smaller location is mostly empty, company spokesman Kip Diggs said. The employees who do work in that space will be moved to the larger building, he said.
The land sale will not affect business at the company’s operations center, either, Diggs said. The land, a hilly 21 acres, sits across South Pantops Drive from the main State Farm building.
“We will use three multifunctional hubs — in Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix — operations centers throughout the country, including Charlottesville, and our corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois, to serve our customers,” Diggs said in an email. “We continue to use a flexible real estate strategy so that we can make adjustments to respond to customers’ changing needs.”
“As we review our facilities, our goal is to utilize existing offices and talent, with a goal of retaining skilled employees,” he said. “These decisions are balanced with the needs of our customers.”
State Farm is vacating the office space in September but still has 18 months left on the lease, said Lisa Jones, with Pavilion Properties, the firm that developed Peter Jefferson Place.
The land covers six parcels and has a direct view of downtown Charlottesville.
Albemarle County records show the land is zoned for commercial office space, but about 15 acres of the parcel is designated for open parks in the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The large undeveloped commercial property is a rarity in Albemarle, said listing agent John Pritzlaff, with commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield Thalhimer.
“It is a very rare opportunity to buy 21 acres in the development area,” he said. “If you can name and find me another 21 acres of land in the core of Charlottesville, I would be very proud of you.”
In spite of the Pantops Master Plan’s goal for a park in the area, Elaine Echols, the county’s principal planner, said office space could be developed on the site by right, as long as the site plan fits within county rules.
For Pritzlaff, the land designation is not an enormous barrier. Between the proximity to downtown, the rarity of similar parcels and the commercial zoning, the parcel retains its value.
“The thing about the 21 acres, why it is valuable, is it is the last tract of land within 10 minutes of downtown that can easily be developed commercial,” he said.
As State Farm sheds space and land, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are relocating to Peter Jefferson Place from downtown Charlottesville.
“The lack of parking and the lack of space downtown and the central location at Peter Jefferson Place made it an attractive option,” Jones said.
The move corresponds with recent plans by Bank of America nationwide to consolidate space, said company spokeswoman Jennifer Darwin.
“This is in line with our efforts to consolidate our space,” she said. “We are trying to have all our teams in one place to better support our customers.”
Across U.S. 250, Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge recently acquired 2 acres between its facility and 250 for $1.65 million. There are no immediate plans to develop the property, said Gary Selmeczi, CEO of the retirement community.
“What we may consider using that parcel for is a welcome and marketing center,” Selmeczi said. “Mostly, we wanted some frontage, and in a way, we wanted to protect that entrance corridor.”