The recent grand opening for Urban Partnership Bank means the black community can expect to have their needs met by a small but family-oriented financial institution, said one state lawmaker.
“Seven years ago Urban Partnership’s predecessor ShoreBank financed my mortgage so I could become a homeowner after other banks turned me down,” recalled state Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, D-5th District. “And now with the grand opening of their Bronzeville branch, the black community will have another financial institution it can depend on to help supply their needs.”
On Jan. 20 Urban Partnership, which is not black-owned, had its grand opening for its branch in the Bronzeville community on the South Side at 3512 S. Michigan Ave. after closing another Bronzeville branch at 3401 S. King Drive in March. Last year the bank also closed two other branches including one on the West Side but later reopened new branches in those same communities.
“In an effort to better serve our customers we need branches that are more accessible to new technology and these three branches (did) not provide that opportunity,” said Brian Berg, a spokesman for UPB.
But with its new Bronzeville branch, which is located across the street from the headquarters for the Chicago Police and Fire departments, William Farrow, president and chief executive officer for UPB, said UPB can now get back to its original roots of being a community bank.
“Our new branches reflect our mission to make a difference in the lives of our customers and communities,” he added. “We’re providing the financial services our customers and communities need to create jobs, grow small businesses, support non-profits, and acquire and purchase real estate.”
Farrow, who is black, grew up in the Englewwod community on the South Side and said he knows what it is like to live in a community whose needs are not met by area banks.
“Growing up I remember many of my (Englewood) neighbors being turned down for mortgages and car loans by banks where they had an account,” Farrow said. “That is a feeling (UPB) strives not to have with our customers.”
The new branch is located in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-1st District, who attended the grand opening with Dunkin.
“It is always good to see people with more banking options and Urban Partnership Bank provides many choices for families and small businesses,” Rush said. “It is important that this community has a bank that is sensitive to their needs. I’m not saying other banks don’t do the same but many do not specialize in community banking like Urban Partnership Bank.”
Alderman Pat Dowell, whose third ward includes Bronzeville, applauded the bank for maintaining a presence in her ward.
“Urban Partnership Bank’s decision to open a new banking center demonstrates Bronzeville’s growing economic vitality and I am delighted that they chose to reinvigorate the 35th and Michigan Avenue corner,” Dowell said. “Residents and businesses in and near the area (now) have another banking option in the community. (And) my expectation is that this new institution will support my efforts to diversify Bronzeville’s shopping options by providing loans to new and existing small businesses that add value to our neighborhood.”
But for Dunkin, it is more important to have a bank in the community residents and businesses feel comfortable going to for their needs.
“Besides Urban Partnership I also do banking at other banks but I can tell you that I do not feel comfortable going to them for financing,” Dunkin said. “Not after they turned me down for loans in the past. A lot of bigger banks have a presence in many black communities but take more away than they give and that is not how it should be.”
UPB is an FDIC-insured, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which was founded August 2010 after acquiring assets and deposits from the failed ShoreBank. Berg said that the certification from the CDFI Fund acknowledges the UPB mission of serving urban communities, building better lives, vibrant communities, and long term success.
With $1.4 billion in assets, the bank’s customer base includes residents, small businesses, nonprofits, foundations, and faith-based organizations in distressed and underserved urban communities in Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, added Berg.