U.S. Bank to unveil agreement with its West Side neighbors

March 2, 2011
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This Friday, West Side residents are invited to join U.S. Bank and The Coalition to Save Community Banking in celebrating an agreement that community activists have sought for more than a year.

“We are very happy,” said Cathy Palmer, one of the community negotiators who has been involved in talks with U.S. Bank.

Austin Talks reported last year on a possible partnership between the Austin community and U.S. Bank. And now it’s coming to fruition after months of negotiations that started not long after the longtime community bank Park National Bank closed.

When federal regulators closed Park National in fall 2009, the neighborhood lost a generous investor, said Rev. Lewis Flowers with the Westside Ministers Coalition. So, community groups in Austin and Oak Park joined together to get U.S. Bank, which took over Park National’s branches to sign a community benefits agreement.

An agreement was reached in February, but details of the compromise are being made public for the first time Friday. The agreement focuses on reducing the one-in-four family home foreclosure rate that has hit the neighborhood, said Palmer.

The Coalition to Save Community Banking had been pushing U.S. Bank to hire local residents and vendors; make a commitment to serving the “unbanked” and individuals with poor credit or low-income; step up its efforts to lend money to low- and moderate-income businesses and make charitable contributions to the community; and honor commitments that had been made by Park National before it closed.

The coalition kept the spotlight on community banking by holding several meetings and protests, including one outside the FDIC inspector general’s office in downtown Chicago, and even traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress.

A press conference will be held at 10 a.m. at the U.S. Bank branch at Madison Street and Austin Boulevard – one of Park National’s previous locations. That will be followed by a public reception and a bus tour of property that is likely to be saved by the U.S. Bank community agreement, the coalition said.

Check back with Austin Talks for a complete report on Friday’s event.

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