Bank closing West Division branch

November 8, 2012
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One West Side bank branch plans to close its doors next week, leaving some Austin residents looking for a new place to perform financial transactions, at least temporarily.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp will be closing its branch at 4909 W. Division Ave. Nov. 16, a move that has angered Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who accused owners of redlining in a recent WBEZ story.

But a U.S. Bancorp spokeswoman said they don’t plan to leave the neighborhood permanently and hope to find a new location in Austin.

“Contrary to rumors in the community, we are not abandoning the community,” U.S. Bancorp spokeswoman Nicole Garrison-Sprenger said in an e-mail.

“Several factors contributed to the closing of the branch, including lack of adequate parking, not having access to drive-up lanes, and poor street visibility and access,” she said.

“To ensure the residents of Bethel continue to have access to banking services, we have offered to provide transportation to residents to one of our nearby branches after the West Division branch is closed,” Garrison-Sprengersaid.

The bank will also maintain an ATM at the site, she said.

Garrison-Sprenger said she hopes the closure will be temporary, and bank representatives have been working with local community leaders to identify a more suitable West Side location, which they hope will be in Austin.

In a follow-up interview, Mitts told AustinTalks no one at U.S. Bank told her about plans to relocate within the community, and she’s angry she had to call them to find out they were closing the West Division location.

“The way they’ve been handling things has been disrespectful to the community,” she said.

Robbie Wilkerson, executive director of the Leaders Network, said the branch’s closing has been a top concern at community meetings in recent weeks.

“I’m definitely concerned about them leaving,” he said. “They leave a tremendous void in our community.”

Wilkerson shared Mitts’ concerns about bank representatives not communicating with members of the Austin community.

“They haven’t given us a clear reason why they’re leaving,” he said.

Wilkerson said he’s reached out to several individuals to discuss a plan of action.

Cathy Palmer of the Coalition for Community Banking said she has been working with U.S. Bank representatives to find a site to relocate in Austin.

“That location simply was not working for them anymore,” she said.

Palmer, Mitts and a U.S. Bank representative plan to meet early next week to discuss the closure.

Mitts said when she was asked to meet, she wasn’t told about plans for a new location. But she said she looks forward to the meeting.

“I just need to have some answers because I represent the community,” she said.

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