John Colson: Bank’s not making friends in Glenwood Springs after recent purchase
Hit & Run
It certainly seems that we in the central Rockies will be spared the kind of damaging floods now ravaging parts of the Midwest, though we can’t be sure the expected monumental spring runoff in Colorado won’t cause us our own kinds of problems.
But we are seeing the damage that can be caused by another kind of flooding — the tsunami of cash that constantly ebbs and flows through our commercial development community, most recently represented in the public-relations crisis generated by the purchase of a downtown building in Glenwood Springs by American National Bank, known by the initials ANB since 2011.
The bank has announced that the current tenants of the building in the 900 block of Grand Avenue will all need to leave next year, and the bank has applied to the city for permits to put up a two-story bank and office building in its place.
ANB apparently is selling its existing building, a rather blockish structure at 2624 Grand Ave. But if the design of that building is any guide to the company’s design sensibilities, I can’t imagine that the new structure would be much of an architectural gem.
And the most predictable effect of the new building will be to further hollow out the commercial core of the town, continuing a long process of replacing quirky, viable and unique small businesses with banks, real estate and law offices.
All told, as reported in local media, seven existing small businesses in that 900 block location must vacate, including KC’s Wing House, Tesseract Comics & Games, Jewels & Gems, Bellini’s Fashion, CPA Services Pro, Inc., Glenwood Spa ‘N’ Nails and Glenwood Escape Room.
These are not the first local businesses to succumb this year to the high-stakes real estate shuffle going on in Glenwood Springs — the town’s last book store, Book Train, recently closed its doors after the building it has occupied for decades, in the 700 block of Grand Avenue, was sold, and the early rumors were that the book shelves would be replaced by candy counters and ice cream freezers.
At this point I’m not entirely sure what fate awaits the old structure. What I do know is that the entire procedure has disgruntled a number of bookish and historical preservation types who feel betrayed by the loss of the Book Train.
As to ANB’s plan, its position certainly is not helped by the fact that the banking industry has not endeared itself to the general public in recent years.
Many of us are still smarting from the terror and economic destruction of the 2008 financial meltdown, which largely was caused by banks and investment entities acting more arrogantly than intelligently in their mad pursuit of ever-mounting profits from questionable investments.
Then there was the Wells Fargo fiasco a few years later, when the corporation was caught creating millions of fraudulent accounts on behalf of its customers just to boost its bottom line. The Wells Fargo folks are still paying the price for that scam, in the form of big fines and lawsuits.
And now, ANB comes along and blithely announces that the century-old building, which takes up much of the 900 block along Grand Avenue, will be torn down to make way for ANB’s new building, and the tenants are out of luck.
I should point out right here that ANB, officially known as a Colorado corporation though it also has branches in Wyoming, bought the 900 block building in late October 2018, according to news reporting on this story, and wasted no time in getting letters to the soon-to-be-gone businesses about the transfer of ownership.
The first letter went out a day after the sale, according to reports, but did not mention the plan to tear the building down. A second letter, five days later, also did not mention the impending demolition, but simply advised tenants that existing leases would be honored going forward.
It was not until tenants began to wonder about lease renewals in 2020 that the truth became known, and business owners, some of whom reportedly had spent big bucks renovating their space, suddenly were faced with forced relocation.
I understand that money talks and that banks, in particular, speak with very loud voices when they feel the need, but the whole process reflects a kind of dog-eat-dog mindset in the world of commercial real estate.
To be sure, in a capitalist economy, this kind of commercial cannibalism is all too common, completely legal and above-board. But that does not mean the rest of us have to like it.
Some of the businesses being forced to move have been in place for decades, and they deserve a lot better treatment than this.
Jewels & Gems, for instance, has been in the center of the doomed street frontage for a quarter of a century (the owner, Cheryl Guay, was in a different location for a prior decade).
Now, I’m not much of a jewelry hound, but I do carry a pocket watch (never have liked strapping a watch around my wrist), and Jewels & Gems has been my go-to shop for repairs and cleanings for some time, so I have my own reasons for feeling a little burned by this whole process.
I’m pretty sure ANB is not feeling warm and fuzzy about all this, given the level of controversy that already has publicly arisen — one man already had, as of last week, a couple thousand signatures on a petition aimed at halting ANB in its tracks.
And there is one thing for sure — ANB is not making many friends with this action, and might win some community good will if it were to rethink its plans.
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