Former Midland States Bank building, downtown Kankakee

The former Midland States Bank building in downtown Kankakee has been sold. Extensive renovations are planned, with work expected to begin by September. Developers are aiming to have the property ready for tenants in early 2022. READ MORE

KANKAKEE — The former Midland States Bank site in downtown Kankakee has been sold and will be transformed by two out-of-the-area developers into a business incubator.

Brian Loftin, of Schaumburg, owner of Preservation Realty, and Joshua Jeffers, of Milwaukee, Wis., owner of the real estate development and investment firm, J. Jeffers & Co., recently closed on the two-story, 22,000-square-foot property at a cost of $338,000.

The two investors have been prospecting Kankakee’s downtown for investment opportunities since late 2019.

Plans regarding extensive renovations to the property are being developed and rehab work is expected to begin by September. The goal is to have the property ready for tenants in early 2022.

While renovation plans are still a considerable way from being finalized, Loftin said late last week “multiple millions” will be spent on the redevelopment.

Loftin and Jeffers were attracted to downtown because of its historic feel, its placement on the National Registry of Historical Places and various tax credit development tools which can be used to aid development.

The bank property had been vacant since November 2019 when Midland States Bank and HomeStar Bank merged. Midland closed the 310 S. Schuyler Ave. branch and moved into the former HomeStar bank building at the corner of South Dearborn Avenue and East Station Street.

The property was listed by Nugent Curtis Real Estate. Joe Nugent, co-owner of the firm, said he is excited to see this type of investment in downtown.

Loftin explained that when the property is opened, he anticipates some offices, some retail, but stressed this will not be traditional office space. He said the location could likely house as many as 80 people, many being business entrepreneurs. He said the incubator program will provide structure and support for first-time business developers.

“This building will play a key role in business development,” he said.

That role will not be new to this location. It was once the home base of Kankakee Federal Savings & Loan. It later became a location for Centrue Bank and then Midland.

Because the location has only been a bank since its development, they have their work cut out for them. But this is a project they are eagerly anticipating.

“We are very excited to show the full scope of our plan,” he said.

Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said the city has worked diligently along with other organizations such as the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and others to help move this project forward.

She said it has been a long journey, but a rewarding one.

“The city stands to benefit from this multi-million dollar investment that will yield significant property tax revenue, provide increment for a new TIF district, create space for entrepreneurs and more,” she said. “We are excited for our city.”

Kankakee potential

This purchase marks the second time in recent months in which an out-of-area investor has infused money into downtown Kankakee. Last year, Chicago-based developer Doug Baum teamed with Kankakee businessman Mike Pinski to purchase the PNC Bank property as well as the Clock Tower Centre property.

While Baum became aware of Kankakee through his friendship with Pinski, Loftin discovered downtown Kankakee in much different fashion. He explored downtown Kankakee in summer 2019 at the urging of local leaders after attending a Chicago Bears practice session.

“I didn’t know about this area at all. I drove to the downtown. I drove along the river. I could start to see the bones of this town,” he said. “There is a great story that happened here and one that can still be told.”

Jeffers said he and Loftin have spent considerable time in Kankakee. He said they came away impressed with the historic buildings and the development options they provide. Jeffers said they also see a community expanding in terms of employment opportunities with some major employers.

He said expanding workforces mean greater opportunities for small, upstart businesses as well.

Jeffers said the city’s administration has also been a pleasure to work with.

“We are very impressed with everything. ... We certainly see a lot of bright days ahead for downtown Kankakee.”

Kankakee Alderman Mike O’Brien, D-2, whose ward includes this downtown area, said for these two men to invest in downtown Kankakee, when they could invest anywhere, should tell the community something about what potential the downtown possesses.

“This is a home run. The bank building is an attractive property and the downtown continues to be an attractive place to be for developers. People like these two will take it to the next level,” O’Brien said. “... We’ve always had local developers, but now we are getting those from outside the area. This will maximize our opportunity. They see opportunity here. There is certainly a momentum boost here.”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.