PARK NATIONAL BANK’S LEGACY
U.S. Bank last week unveiled its plans to invest on Chicago’s West Side, highlighting a $600,000 investment and plans to renovate six foreclosed homes in Austin and Maywood.
“You will see neighborhood guys fixing up houses, and you will see U.S. Bank backing it up with money,” said Jacqueline Reed, executive director of Westside Health Authority, one of two community groups working with the financial institution.
Construction workers last Friday were busy renovating one of the houses – at 4932 W. Ohio St. – the first of U.S. Bank’s promised community investment of up to $2.4 million over the next three years.
West Side residents had the chance to tour the home as part of the celebration that started with a press conference in U.S. Bank’s parking lot in Oak Park, just across the street from Austin.
It was the culmination of months of negotiations between the bank and community leaders that started not long after federal regulators closed longtime community bank Park National, which had been based at Austin Boulevard and Madison Street.
“A year and a half ago, the FDIC made a profound mistake by taking over Park National Bank,” said David Pope, Village of Oak Park president, of the federal government’s fall 2009 seizure of the bank.
That seemed to ring true for most of the neighborhood’s residents who knew of Park National and its former owner Mike Kelly.
“A lot of what he did was his own charitable stuff. He just gave enormous amounts of money,” said Bob Vondrasek of the South Austin Coalition Community Council.
With Park National Bank’s generosity gone, community residents questioned who would make the investments the neighborhood needed. Enter The Coalition to Save Community Banking, a nonprofit organization that formed with the goal of getting U.S. Bank, which took over for Park National, to make a commitment to the West Side community.
Early on, the coalition wasn’t happy with the response it received, even after a bus of West Side residents traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress about Park National’s seizure. That’s when the coalition turned to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.
And with the help of the congressman, U.S. Bank came to the table in October, including Richard Hartnack, vice chairman of consumer banking and small business at U.S. Bank. Those negotiations resulted in the creation of two programs.
The Community Restoration Fund is expected to invest with local developers to purchase foreclosed properties at zero-percent interest, renovate them and sell them at cost.
Over the next nine months, $600,000 is expected to be invested in six homes-three houses are being developed in Maywood by Housing Helpers, and three houses in Austin by Westside Health Authority. The homes in Austin should be market-ready in three months, said WHA’s Morris Reed, with the home at 4932 W. Ohio being listed for about $165,000.
If the developers pay back the loans in full, the bank will reinvest another $800,000 in 2012 and $1 million in 2013 for a total investment of $2.4 million, said U.S. Bank spokeswoman Lisa Clark.
The other program, a Community Benefits Agreement, provides neighborhood development support. That includes financial education starting March 18 and 19 at the Maywood Community Center with a seminar on mortgage modification for those struggling to meet payments. The agreement also calls for more low-income lending attention, including taking a second look at small business loans that were previously denied and offering suggestions on how their needs might be met.