Key Bank reported that it couldn’t confirm the story because its branch-expansion manager is out of the office until next week. In the case of building owner Sander Properties, however, it appears there is some reluctance to talk to the Madison Park Blogger on the subject. One area merchant had warned me “Oh, Bob will never talk to you!” And this certainly seems to be the case. Although I’ve called several times (and actually walked over to Bob Sander’s office and left my card on one occasion), I haven’t managed to drum up any real response from him. I did get a cryptic “it seems to be the rumor alright” when I called Sander’s office today to ask if the story about Key Bank is true. But that was it.
So, atypically, we are doing a posting based on a rumor—but one that has a lot of people talking. That fact alone makes it newsworthy.
The idea of a big national retail bank moving into space previously occupied by a local merchant is controversial. On one side are those who feel Madison Park should limit itself to local businesses and seek to retain a kind of small-town ambiance. On the other side, presumably, are those more hard-headed realists who believe that the market will determine what is needed in the Park. Key Bank, if and when it arrives on the scene, will be successful—or not—based on whether people want to have the Bank here. That’s how the free-enterprise system works.
But allowing a local building owner to rent to whomever he pleases does not sit well with certain people in Madison Park. One member of the Madison Park Business Association, for example, told me she feels that landlords here (of which she is one) should be concerned about the character of the business district and take an altruistic view. Effectively, no McDonalds, no Subways, and no big national banks should defile the pristine village character of our business district. Some believe that the Park should be zoned exclusively for small establishments, and only local (or, at minimum, regional) retailers should be allowed to grace our fine community. If property owners must accept lower rents from less-well-healed tenants as a consequence, then so be it.
That’s one opinion. But if Bob Sander were talking to us, he probably would present an alternative view. I suspect that just because he lives in Madison Park and owns commercial property here, he doesn’t necessarily agree that he shouldn’t get the highest amount of income off of his property investment that he possibly can. He might point out that a national retailer willing to sign a long-term lease (in this case, rumored to be for 20 years) is a better tenant prospect than a potentially struggling local merchant would be.
One area merchant who has a good feel for both sides of the equation is Lola McKee, owner of Madison Park Hardware. “I understand what he (Sanders) did,” she told me, “but I wonder if it’s going to be good for the neighborhood.” She noted that she had no objection to a bank coming in, if that’s what’s going to happen, but worries about the impact of bank customers on neighborhood parking, for one thing. She told me she’s also concerned about the feel of the neighborhood with a fourth bank on a two-and-a-half block stretch of Madison. She admits she would rather see a local merchant in the space. “I take my money from the neighborhood,” she said, “and I think that I should give back to the neighborhood. But I’m old fashioned.” She notes, however, that she well understands Sander’s situation. “When you own a building you need to be sure it’s rented.”
If Key Bank is on the way to the Park it will arrive to find plenty of competition already in place. Onetime local banks Wells Fargo (formerly, Pacific Bank, later First Interstate), JP Morgan Chase (formerly Washington Mutual), and Bank of America (formerly Seafirst) are longtime players on the Madison Park scene. Apparently (and it’s still just a rumor) another national bank now thinks that Madison Park is where the money is.