New Bank Office Anchors Hot East Lansing Growth Area

Business Direct Weekly
October 14-20, 2004
Page B-5
By Cynthia Kyle

East Lansing – Summit Community Bank’s roadside billboards tell the story: “A Better Way to Bank (and a better location).”

The bank recently moved from a cozy shopping center location to new quarters in an open, two-story glass and brick building with room to grow.

From January 2003 until last month, Summit’s tellers and temporary headquarters were tucked away in 3,200 square feet at the end of Coolidge and Lake Lansing roads.

Since mid-September, the bank’s made its home in 8,000 square feet of space at 1600 Abbott Road, centered on ac northern route to residential neighborhoods, offices, retail shopping and restaurants growing along Lake Lansing Road.

“There were a number of attractions for us,” says John Abbott, president and chief operating officer of the nearly two-year-old institution. “We felt this was the natural place to put the bank.”

The 16,000-square-foot building’s narrow footprint takes advantage of wetland views to the north, and parking is positioned on three of the building’s sides to preserve the natural area.

Bronzed glass wraps the brick, limestone and concrete block building in vistas that look to the suburban neighborhood on one side and nature on the other.

“Our brick makes the statement: This is permanent. From here we’ll grow,” Abbott says.

The location is within reach of new condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes under way on Abbott Road north to Bath Township, explains Jim van Ravensway, East Lansing’s director of planning and community development.

“It’s probably the hottest area in Lansing right now,” he says.

With $40 million in deposits and $68 million in total assets, Summit is finding opportunities in commercial real estate lending, home loans, preferred checking and personal service to tri-county depositors, Abbott says.

Summit, with just 14 employees currently, is still considered a de novo bank, one formed by obtaining a new charter. Such start-ups are popping up in new markets around the state to take advantage of relationship and staff disruptions caused by regional bank mergers and acquisitions.

Summit’s 175 shareholders live in the area and are committed to an intensely customer service-oriented model at a time when larger financial institutions are replacing a personal touch with telephone banking, Abbott says.

“There’s a segment of the community that wants to deal with a banker face-to-face,” he says.

The bank’s space was designed to foster contact. Glass doors lead from the building’s common entryway to a reception desk. Interiors are washed in muted greens, gold and taupe.

Paint colors were selected from a historical line to communicate tradition, notes Judy Ford, project manager for Keystone Design Group of Lansing, which helped to design and equip the Summit interior.

“They wanted to stand out from other banks that are going streamlined and high tech,” Ford says.

Except for the bank’s boardroom, there are no blinds in outside windows. “We wanted a welcoming feeling,” Abbott explains.

From his corner office, the president can spot incoming customers on a monitor at his desk. He can move quickly to greet them through a short hall leading to Summit’s reception area.

“I’ve heard bank customers say, ‘I couldn’t believe it. I was greeted by the president, or the vice president of the bank,’” says Patrick Gillespie, president of the East Lansing apartment and retail developers Gillespie Group, which owns and built Summit’s new quarters. He also is a founding bank director.

The bank’s drive-up teller bays are equipped with cameras and monitors. When activated, drive-up customers will see the teller who serves them.

“This is another way to get customer dialog,” Abbott says.

Summit’s vendors and suppliers are locally based for the same reason, Abbott notes. Local subcontractors helped Gillespie fast-track the steel and concrete structure. Cleaning and carpeting bids came from area companies.

Roy Saper of East Lansing’s Saper Galleries selected traditional landscapes and outdoor scenes for the bank’s interior walls.

The first work selected, hanging at the bank’s entry, appropriately, is an ice-ridged mountain summit photographed in the Tibetan Himalayas.

“The feeling is one that’s connected with nature,” Saper says. “There’s a real attempt to connect with the people who are the customers.

Cynthia Kyle is a freelance writer living in East Lansing.




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