Despite efforts, bank branch in Highland Park to close March 21

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/10/2017, 8:48 a.m.
Bank of America is not backing down on its decision to close its Highland Park branch on Tuesday, March 21, ...
Bank of America branch at 1307 E. Brookland Park Blvd.

Bank of America is not backing down on its decision to close its Highland Park branch on Tuesday, March 21, according to Richmond City Councilwoman Ellen F. Robertson.

However, the 6th District representative said bank officials told her they are prepared to keep an ATM open at the location, 1307 E. Brookland Park Blvd., to accept deposits and dispense money.

During negotiations Monday, she said bank officials appeared to be open to the idea of donating the building and its parking lot to the city or an appropriate nonprofit.

She also indicated that officials did not object to the idea of having a credit union move into the space, and indicated that the bank might even be financially supportive.

She also suggested that the officials showed some interest in possibly providing support for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which makes loans to developers who seek to provide apartments with reduced rents or to build lower-cost homes.

Ms. Robertson said she hopes the city’s Department of Economic and Community Development will assist in the effort to find a new use for the building or to develop or locate an interested credit union.

“I was told it would take about 180 days for the bank to put together a donation,” she said, so “this is something that we need to get moving on.”

After the bank announced its plans to close the branch, Ms. Robertson joined with various community groups to rally residents to save the last Bank of America branch in a majority-black community in Richmond.

The Free Press helped spotlight those efforts in January in reporting on the pending closure.

While the bank has other branches within four miles of the Highland Park location, the North Side branch has been convenient for people who rely on bus service.

However, the options for saving the branch became limited after federal regulators, including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, declined to intervene.

During the past six weeks, Ms. Robertson has focused on ways to reduce the impact of the closing in meetings with bank officials.

Bank of America acquired the branch when it took over Sovran Bank years ago. Sovran gained it when it took over a smaller bank.

The branch seemed to have a limited future since Bank of American began closing hundreds of branches in response to customers now banking on their smartphones, by computer or through sophisticated ATMs.

The Highland Park branch is just the latest to be closed in large measure because it has limited business compared with other branches.

The branch reported about $13.5 million in deposits last year, far below the average for the 22 other Bank of America branches in the area, all of which reported $30 million or more in deposits, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

When the branch closes, SunTrust Bank will be the last big bank to operate branches in areas most other banks have left. SunTrust still has branches in the 1500 block of Hull Street in Blackwell and the 2500 block of East Broad in Church Hill.