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The Color of Money

Follow-ups and reaction

Bank officials reconsider closing West End branch

By Bill Dedman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published October 22, 1988, Page E1

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After watching a videotape of disappointed bank customers and receiving a petition with 600 customer signatures, Trust Company Bank official said Friday they will reconsider their decision to close the bank's West End branch.

The bankers made no promises, but they said they might be able to find a more central location in the West End, or might find a way to keep the current location open.

They said they will give an answer by Thursday.

"When you have a lot of people in a room who want you to stay in the neighborhood, well, everybody likes to be wanted," said Wade T. Mitchell, executive vice president of Trust Company Bank.

Three bank officers met privately for an hour at City Hall with city Councilmen Thomas F. Cuffie and Dozier P. Smith, a representative of state Sen. Hildred W. Shumake (D-Atlanta), ministers from Concerned Black Clergy, leaders of the city's Neighborhood Planning Unit V and the Adair Park neighborhood, leaders of West End Neighborhood Development, an Atlanta Legal Aid Lawyer and several longtime residents.

The group gave the bankers a petition signed by 600 customers, described plans for redevelopment of West End and showed a video-tape of interviews with bank customers who expressed anger, surprise and disappointment.

"We were afforded an opportunity to vent our frustration," said Mr. Cuffie, who called the meeting. "We also were able to give the bankers information on development in the area that would be of interest to a bank that would get off it hands and aggressively market itself to the community."

Trust Company told customers last week it planned to close the branch at 670 Stewart Avenue S.W. on Nov. 18, saying it loses money, lies outside main West End traffic paths and suffers from competition from six other banks in the area.

If the branch closed, it would be the sixth Trust Company branch to close in a black or integrated neighborhood in metro Atlanta in the past two years. Two of the branches were near other Trust Company branches. Bank officials said their decisions were based entirely on economics, not race.

Neighborhood leaders said the bank could be more successful if it would increase its advertising, add an automatic teller machine, add more tellers to reduce waiting time, and expand hours, participate in more community development projects, broaden the type of loans available, and give greater lending authority to that branch.

"In working class neighborhood, you need some flexibility, some accessibility, something more than just 9 to 4 Monday through Friday," Mr. Cuffie said. "You need to be able to get more than just a car loan."

Trust Company, whose parent, SunTrust Banks Inc., was the most profitable banking company in the country last year, has been criticized by Atlanta community groups who claim it fails to meet its legal requirements under the Community Reinvestment Act of 1978 to serve moderate-and low-income areas.

Mr. Mitchell said the bank still plans to close at the same time two branches that are near other Trust Company banks: at Bucknell Drive S.W. and Fulton Industrial Boulevard, and in Piedmont Center Building 11 in Buckhead.

In similar situation this summer, Citizens and Southern National Bank (C&S) considered closing its Stewart Lakewood branch at 2034 Stewart Avenue S.W. After Mr. Smith and other community leaders protested, C&S kept the branch open.


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