Friday, July 30, 2010

You can never have too many banks

The story hit the streets yesterday that Key Bank will soon be arriving in the Park, becoming the fourth national bank to have a Madison Park presence. Rumor has it that the bank will be taking the space at 4105 E. Madison Street being vacated at the end of this week by Ropa Bella, as well as the contiguous spaces occupied by Dermaradiance and the recently-departed Sun Precautions. Unfortunately, this is a story which remains unverified at this point, since Key Bank is unable to confirm or deny it and the building’s owner is unwilling.

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.

8 comments:

  1. The Wells Fargo was University Federal before it was First Interstate. I remember going there when I was a little kid -- they used to have a real fire going in the lobby. Good memories.

    Wasn't the Seafirst a Rainier Bank originally?

    As for KeyBank, I don't mind them coming in. But I would prefer a local bank or credit union to a national outfit.

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  2. C'mon people??? Another bank in Madison Park by squeezing out several local businesses. This is not free enterprise it is nothing more than another giant corporation buying into the market.

    Banks used to serve the public but now they serve only their stockholders and could care less about the individual customer or small businesses.

    Of course it is bound to happen but is it needed? Is it desired by the community? Heard anybody clamoring for another bank lately? Henry L. Meyer, III KeyBank CEO took a cool $8,152,386 in compensation last year. Think he is in touch with the needs of this community?

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  3. If any of you cared about this country, you wouldn't bank at any of the large national mega-banks.

    Support local banks and credit unions.

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  4. The fact that it's a national corporation doesn't bother me so much as that fact that it's a bank....a fourth bank. As if the business district needed to be even more boring. I live in Madison Valley and I am finding fewer and fewer reasons to go to the Madison Park business district these days.

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  5. Basically MP village is becoming this:

    Bank
    Coffee shop
    Bank
    Coffee shop
    Bank
    Market
    Bank

    Who goes into a physical bank branch much these days?

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  6. I don't believe the neighborhood will benefit from yet another bank. I and others will encourage the neighborhood to NOT patronize this business.

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  7. Mr. Sander can rent to anyone he wants. If we don't like it, we should buy commercial property in Madison Park and rent it to anyone WE want.

    Competition between similar businesses is good for consumers and that's us! Good-for-us. The great thing about the free-market, is that all of these things naturally just figure themselves out. Yes, we live in a free-market economy, even in Madison Park.

    As someone one who has banked at all four, I can tell you that Key Bank is by far the best-suited to Madison Park. There is no bullet-proof glass to make the customer feel like they're trying to get a payday loan. They are much more community-oriented in their branch design, with community sitting areas and community walls highlighting local features. They also, whenever feasible, try to assign managers to branches in their own neighborhoods. They also have a very strong small business banking program and despite all the doom and gloom in these comments, Madison Park is still full of those.

    So, everyone get out and shop. Bank where you want, but go out and spend your money. If you are worried about the future of businesses in Madison Park, that is the only thing you have control over. Spend locally all year-round and don't worry about the banks...That will figure itself out.

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  8. No, not true if you don't like what Mr Sander's practices are you should not patronize or support his properties. if he is an owner that is making judgements that do not benefit the community then choose to support the ones who will and do. Spend your money where property owners are responsible and sensitive beyond pure financial interests. It's called having a soul ...that hopefully sometimes leads you past your greed! And speak out when you see something that you know is not in the best interest of your neighborhood.

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