When SunTrust reduced its Cleveland footprint by shuttering its downtown branch in April, it surely came as a disappointment to many.
After all, it’s a modern building that had maintained a strong presence in downtown Cleveland for 50 years; first as Merchants Bank upon its 1964 construction, and later as SunTrust.
Plus, its location is prime real estate — right smack across from the Bradley County Courthouse.
But such corporate moves are sometimes necessary.
At about the same time as the difficult decision by SunTrust to downsize its local presence, the Bank of Cleveland — which ironically is a downtown next-door neighbor — was looking to beef up its signature.
Specifically, SunTrust wanted less space and the Bank of Cleveland needed more.
Scott Taylor, Bank of Cleveland CEO, worded it best in last Sunday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner when he told our newspaper, “... We need the space and it’s uncanny SunTrust announced their move when they did.”
For the few who haven’t heard, the Bank of Cleveland has purchased the former SunTrust building, and even the furniture.
The homegrown bank — whose co-founder, Bobby Taylor, played a key role in building the SunTrust facility half-a-century ago when it was still the Merchants Bank — made the strategic acquisition for a number of reasons.
1. Bank of Cleveland’s mortgage business for the past couple years, or more, has been booming because the local housing market continues to emerge from The Great Recession that raised its ugly head in late 2007 and early 2008; this has meant more work for the local financing institution and created the need for more space for the mortgage department.
2. Bank of Cleveland, as any successful enterprise would do, took a defensive business approach. Buying the available building next door would prevent a new competitor from moving in — either from outside or inside the community.
3. Bank of Cleveland for years has served as an avid supporter — thanks to the Taylor business and civic model — of the downtown area and to the people of Cleveland and Bradley County. To acquire an available facility, and not allow it to sit empty, is yet another investment in the community.
4. Bank of Cleveland will pick up 22 additional parking spaces that were part of the SunTrust property, and as all who visit the downtown area will agree, parking sometimes comes at a premium.
5. Bank of Cleveland’s purchase now assures an existing SunTrust building tenant — the District Attorney General’s Office of the 10th Judicial District — will continue to have a home on the facility’s second floor. The DAG contract was nearing its expiration.
6. Bank of Cleveland now has the opportunity to lend more green to the downtown area. We’re not speaking of money. The bank’s plan is to physically connect the two existing buildings on the first floor using the empty space between the structures, and to rip out some concrete and add in some green space.
As it did in 1987 when it acquired the historic Fillauer Building and later renovated it, the Bank of Cleveland will preserve local history at the SunTrust facility. During a tour of the bank building, an old safe was discovered which appears to be dated to the early 1900s with the name “Merchants Bank” on the front. The authentic piece of banking memorabilia will be placed on public display, according to Senior Vice President Christy Griffith.
Such decisions to honor Cleveland’s past are not new to Bank of Cleveland. The business did it 27 years ago once the Fillauer Building renovation was completed. Prior to becoming a bank, the structure served as a popular theater. Historic artifacts from the moviehall were put on public display for Bank of Cleveland customers — and the community — to enjoy.
As a growing community, Cleveland is blessed to be served by a diverse selection of quality financial institutions. Most have a soft side for civic involvement and for that commitment we are grateful.
Bank of Cleveland is one such player — both in our hometown’s economic viability and in our people’s belief in helping others.
The bank’s decision to expand is good for the bank. It is good for customers. It is good for downtown. It is good for community.
We congratulate Bank of Cleveland on this bold move.
In the world of commerce, nothing is sadder than an empty building. And nothing brings a bigger smile than the reopening of its doors.