The Firestone Building, which in recent years has gone from a place of possibilities and optimism to now the most recognizable example of developer Jeff Broughton’s rocky stint in Kokomo, remains on the market.
The downtown structure, and its 29,658 square feet that comprise a chunk of a city block, is listed at $850,000. Selling the building is realtor Gena Martin, who said she has received “some interest off and on.”
“I have had out-of-town agents working for developers and out-of-state investors ask about the property,” she noted. The building was initially listed in early 2018 for $959,900.
Martin, when asked for more information about the agents and investors, said in an email: “Not much more info to give. Just the inquiries I get. No definite interest as of now.”
The building's potential as a downtown landmark have long been salivated over by many in Kokomo. Others have been more skeptical.
But its long-term future – after a recent past that once held enough promise to bring former Gov. Mike Pence to the Firestone Building for a tech firm expansion that was never fully realized – remains in limbo.
Still hanging on the building’s northeast corner is a blue sign whose upper half is bordered by LED lights that would, if turned on, illuminate orange letters spelling “Firestone PLAZA.” The sign duplicates the original that was on the building in the 1930s.
“The Mark of Quality,” is printed in small white letters near the top of the sign, underneath an orange capital F.
Hanging off the bottom of the sign is an addition that promises nonexistent places to get coffee and lunch.
Excitement about the building was often stoked by Broughton, who marketed the site as a future downtown centerpiece that would serve as the vibrant home to various Kokomo organizations and businesses.
Numerous tenants did at one point call the Firestone Building home – some examples include an Indiana University Kokomo art gallery, tech firm Nexient and the Indiana Behavior Analysis Academy (IBAA) – although each one eventually vacated the property.
Nearly two years after announcing its expansion into the Firestone Building during a ceremon…
Structural concerns have long plagued the Firestone Building. The most public example came in July 2017 when IBAA owner Lisa Steward told the Kokomo Perspective that her move-in date was delayed by several months after Broughton failed to obtain necessary permits.
When the IBAA moved in, Steward told the paper, it dealt with frozen pipes and falling ceiling tiles she believes were caused by water damage that resulted from poor work done by unlicensed plumbers.
Martin, however, told the Tribune this week that “most issues have been remediated.”
“It’s in better condition,” she said. “Like any property that has sat for a lengthy period of time there will be renovations that are needed.”
During his time in Kokomo, Broughton also promoted his vision for the building’s roof, which included laying down turf, hosting summer movie nights and implementing a “seasonal restaurant.”
But Broughton, who has been credited by some in the community for having the gall to take on projects dismissed by other developers, failed to reach those goals.
Martin believes the Firestone Building still sports considerable potential.
“It would be a great site for a mixed use property,” she said.
“Offices, restaurants, retail and condos/apartments. It is has been brought up many times how the rooftop is unique and could be an awesome space for events, or a restaurant space. These kinds of spaces are not new and work out very well in other cities.”
Martin said it is “normally a little bit of a challenge to [sell] large commercial spaces in Kokomo” and that the Firestone Building has not been any different.
“It just needs a developer that has a vision that fits the building and what the surrounding area has to offer,” she said. “It’s actually sitting in a really good location, so just finding that developer with the vision and money to do it is the challenge. It's a large space so not something someone is just going to jump into.”
Online property records show the structure, located at 219 N. Union St., is still owned by Kipcor 219 LLC.
Broughton is listed as the registered agent of Kipcor 219, which was formed in Nevada but has a business status of “revoked,” according to the Indiana secretary of state’s records.
Broughton obtained the building from the city of Kokomo in late 2013. That followed STAR Financial Bank’s donation of the property for $10 to the city’s Redevelopment Commission.
One investor in the Firestone Building, Joey Kimbrough, previously confirmed that two groups of investors sunk “hundreds of thousands” of dollars into the structure without receiving anything in return. It was Kimbrough who listed the Firestone Building with Martin.
Investors previously saved the Firestone Building at the last minute from appearing in the 2017 tax sale by paying enough of what was owed on the property.
Howard County Treasurer Wes Reed said Friday the last payment received on the building was in October 2017. If the delinquency is not paid before July 1, he noted, it will be certified for tax sale this year.
Currently, the minimum to remove the Firestone Building from tax sale is $9,988, explained Reed. The total delinquency is $14,945. After May 10, more penalties would be charged.
“Joey is the main one I communicate with out of a small group of people, but I have talked to all of them. They are all interested in getting it sold," said Martin.
“They would like to see someone come in there and make that corner great again. I would think anyone that lives in the Kokomo area and cares about the city would want to see such a large historic building be restored and servicing the community once again.”
Kimbrough, meanwhile, said he has not received interest in the Firestone Building.
“No one has spoken to me or shown an interest in the property,” he said.