Bank construction begins

The First Community Bank is a for-profit bank that is meant to serve residents with a low to moderate income and promote economic development.
The First Community Bank is a for-profit bank that is meant to serve residents with a low to moderate income and promote economic development. Photo by Christian Eubank.

The First Community Bank planned for the corner of Whalley and Sherman avenues moved one step closer to opening after the New Haven City Plan Commission unanimously approved the bank’s site plan at a meeting last night.

First Community Bank, a for-profit bank designed to promote economic development and serve residents in low- to moderate-income areas, was founded in 2004 and holds a temporary charter from the State of Connecticut Department of Banking.

The First Community Bank is a for-profit bank that is meant to serve residents with a low to moderate income and promote economic development.
The First Community Bank is a for-profit bank that is meant to serve residents with a low to moderate income and promote economic development.

Regina Winters, a principal with Zared Architecture in New Haven, said the construction of the bank’s future home at 299 Whalley Ave. will leave its historic facade nearly intact. At the meeting Wednesday night, the board confirmed Winters’s proposal to replace 1,000 square feet of driveway with grass beds, flower beds, shrubbery and trees.

When it approved the bank’s plan, the board’s only request was that the bank add a few more trees to the site for aesthetic purposes.

Winters said the new bank will include community meeting spaces in addition to the usual teller station and offices. She added that the construction for the bank should be completed by late spring or early summer.

Currently the bank is awaiting the accreditation from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve Bank that it needs to legally open, said its chief executive officer, William Placke. He said although he does not expect to hear whether the bank has received its accreditation for weeks, the bank’s leaders are hiring employees with the intention of opening in May.

“A year ago, I might know how long it would take but the regulators are exercising great caution because they are closing other banking companies at such a rapid pace,” he said.

Packe said he does not anticipate the bank having any difficulties earning accreditation because New Haven does not have any similar community-based banks. He said there is evidence that the bank will fill a need in the community, explaining that New Haven’s many construction projects, such as the work on Route 34, will draw potential clients to the area because of the large numbers of workers they employ.

“The picture for banks is not always great from a global economic standpoint,” he said. “But some of the elements in the New Haven area are very supportive.”

The First City Funding Corporation, a not-for-profit organization devoted to aiding New Haven’s low-income, residents, proposed the community bank project in 2004 because after the New Haven Savings Bank went public and sold its shares to NewAlliance Bank, the city no longer had a bank that specifically catered to the needs of the community, Placke said.

Unlike most commercial banks the community bank will not charge patrons fees to cash checks and will stay open later on paydays, Placke said. Another proposed community bank in the Fair Haven neighborhood is part of the same project and will offer low-cost money transfer services for customers sending money overseas.

Placke said the construction at both the downtown New Haven and Fair Haven bank sites has already begun.

Correction: Feb. 21, 2010

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the history of NewAlliance Bank. The New Haven Savings Bank opened for public trading, sold its shares to the public and was renamed NewAlliance; the New Haven Savings Bank did not merge with NewAlliance. Also, the article misreported the status of Sachem Bank’s charter. Sachem Bank received a temporary charter from the state in 2009 and is currently seeking approval on a permanent one.

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