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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

PROGRESS- BANKING FORCHANGE

April 6, 2001

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By Mark Fagan

mfagan@ljworld.com

Lawrence's newest bank really isn't a bank at all.

Peoples, which opened a month ago in northwest Lawrence, actually is a financial center -- a prototype full-service bank with corporate offices, insurance sales, brokerage services, a bookstore, coffee shop, community gallery, three television sets and a Sony PlayStation equipped with NBA, auto racing and Ms. Pac Man games.

It's the business model envisioned by Wint Winter Sr. when he assembled all 60 or so of his senior managers for a recent corporate retreat in Colorado.

"The chairman of the board had this ice sculpture that said, 'bank,'" recalled Todd Harris, president for Peoples in Lawrence. "He took a sledgehammer right to it -- smashed it. He said, 'You no longer have banks; you have financial centers. You no longer have customers; you have guests. You no longer have a building; it's a store.'

"It's a retail environment. We want people to come in and say, 'Wow, that's enjoyable. That wasn't a bank.'"

The $1.46 million Peoples location, at 4831 W. Sixth St., is the latest edition in a rapidly changing and ever-booming financial-services market in Lawrence.

Only Johnson County adds banks faster than Douglas County, according to the Kansas Bankers Assn., and growth in population and commercial property is fueling the expansion.

Westward ho!

Western Lawrence has served as a financial frontier for several companies in recent months:

l Peoples Bank, which has $35 million in assets between its two Lawrence locations.

l Lawrence Bank, which opened its headquarters at Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive, to go along with a downtown branch at 110 E. Ninth St.

l Capital City Bank of Topeka, which opened its first Lawrence branch inside the new Hy-Vee store at 4000 W. Sixth St.

l Corner Bank, which is building a new branch along the south side of Sixth Street, south of Free State High School.

l First State Bank & Trust, which is building its Lawrence headquarters at the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Monterey Way.

Another bank is proposed for the northwest corner of Sixth and Wakarusa, inside a larger development that could include 175,000 square feet of retail space and five detached restaurants. The bank would cover 6,650 square feet and have four drive-through lanes, according to proposed plans Dial Realty-KC filed at city hall.

Harris knows what's drawing all the action: Lawrence itself.

"It's the growth, the expansion, the quality of life," said Harris, whose parent company, Ottawa-based Peoples Inc., has $575 million in assets among five different banks with 25 branches in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. "It's a wonderful place, and there are a lot of growth opportunities here."

But western Lawrence isn't the only area with a growing sense of banking change.

Downtown expansion

Intrust Bank is making plans for a project of its own, at the edge of downtown.

Intrust is expanding its headquarters at 901 Vt., by purchasing the current homes of Auto Glass Center, 900 Ky., and Sizzors, a hair salon at 910 Ky. The two buildings are to be razed to make way for a 50-car parking lot.

Last month, two options existed for the current Intrust building, built in 1970:

l Renovate and expand from 5,200 square feet to about 6,400 square feet.

l Demolish and replace it with a two-story building that covers about 6,000 square feet on the main level and provides another 6,000 square feet upstairs for professional offices, which would be available for lease.

Either way, Intrust plans to build upon the presence it started in 1999, when it bought US Bancorp's branches in Lawrence, including the locations at 901 Vt. and 544 Columbia Drive. Today it has 30 employees in town and assets of nearly $50 million.

"We plan on being in this market for a long, long, long time," said Mike Maddox, Intrust's community bank president in Lawrence. "Downtown is the central business ... and we want to be in the middle of that. " We just believe it's the place to be."

Changing signs

US Bancorp is making its way back into the Lawrence market -- in a big way.

The banking giant is taking over Firstar, which has five branches and a drive-through operation here. The change will make US Bancorp the biggest player in town -- and, in all, leave it with 2,200 branches and $160 billion in assets in the United States.

Back in Lawrence, the bank with the second-largest banking presence lost its longtime leader. In January, Bob Georgeson left the daily banking business after nearly 50 years on the job.

Georgeson had led Douglas County Bank as president and chief executive officer since 1993. Under his leadership, the bank increased its assets from $118 million to $160 million. Today the bank has five locations in Lawrence, one in Eudora and five ATMs.

"I'll give somebody else a chance," Georgeson said, in announcing his retirement. "Banking's changed a lot. There's a lot more regulations, and lot more technology.

"It's time for a change."

-- Business editor Mark Fagan can be reached at 832-7188.

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