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State Farm To Open New Community Space On Diversey

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State Farm Insurance

State Farm Insurance (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The fight over plans to open a Wal-Mart in a retail complex on Broadway has dominated the headlines in the Lincoln Park-East Lakeview neighborhood lately, but plans are already a done deal for another business in the neighborhood – with no merchandise to sell.

Multiple published reports say State Farm insurance will soon open a storefront on Diversey Parkway just west of Clark Street and Broadway, called “Next Door.” It will be located in the former Barnes and Noble bookstore space at 659 W. Diversey Pkwy.

On its Web site, State Farm explains “Next Door” is a new retail venture where financial advisers will be available to talk about money matters, be it paying off student loans, saving up for a car, or just creating a budget.

Next Door will offer informal classes on personal finance, and customers can also set up events, State Farm says.

To accommodate groups, the store will feature workstation “pods” that can be moved around so groups can gather to discuss starting a new business or any other subject, Crain’s Chicago Business reported. Free WiFi will also be available.

Next Door will also operate a café, which will offer coffee, pastries and sandwiches, Crain’s reported.

All personal finance coaching, classes and community space are free, State Farm says.

“No catch. No sales pitch,” State Farm says. “Why? While Next Door helps people work toward their goals, State Farm learns more about what consumers want and need, and how we can help.”

The store is set to open Aug. 1, and State Farm is now hiring for seven positions there. They are: a financial coach who will provide personal finance advice to customers, a manager to oversee staff and day-to-day operations, an experience coordinator who will help develop special events and classes, a lab research analyst to learn about the needs of the community, and a host to greet customers at the door and tell them about the space.

The Barnes and Noble bookstore that formerly occupied the space closed at the end of 2008. It has been vacant since then, except for a poster store and a pop-up Halloween store that briefly occupied the space last year.

The block of Diversey Parkway where the store is set to open has seen massive change in recent years.

Just to the east of the space where Next Door will locate, a new Urban Outfitters opened late last year at 651 W. Diversey Pkwy., in a storefront which had largely sat vacant since a Pier 1 Imports store closed a few years ago. Just to the west of Next Door, a new Trader Joe’s is set to open next month, in a brand new building that replaced an old two-flat apartment home and a parking lot.

Also on the block, an Akira women’s clothing store opened in 2008 at 645 W. Diversey Pkwy., in a space that had sat vacant for two years following the departure of Sherwyn’s Health Food store. An Akira men’s store and footwear store also opened across the street, although the men’s store has since vacated its space.

What do you think of State Farm’s new plan? Leave a comment below.

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