New bank to open in downtown Milwaukee

A significant portion of the former Gimbels parking garage at 555 N. Plankinton Ave. in downtown Milwaukee will soon be reincarnated as a large new bank. Irwin Union Bank FSB will close its Brookfield office and open its first full-service Wisconsin branch in the office segment of the parking structure, which is directly south of The Shops of Grand Avenue.
Columbus, Ind.-based Irwin Union Bank plans to open the downtown Milwaukee branch in January with 12 full-time employees. The bank will offer retail services, private banking and wealth management, and commercial banking. The new downtown bank also will offer drive-through service, an ATM, a night-deposit area and safety deposit boxes.
Irwin Union Bank opened a partial-service branch in Brookfield at 250 N. Sunnyslope Road last summer. That location will be closed and replaced with the full-service branch in downtown Milwaukee.
Irwin Union Bank focuses on serving owner-operated businesses, which is one of the reasons downtown Milwaukee was attractive to the company.
"(Downtown is) an area where a concentration of business owners and customers are all right there," Irwin Union senior vice president Steve Corbisier told Small Business Times. "Nowhere else in the state can you go and get that."
"What is happening in our industry is consolidation, where big banks are getting bigger," said Bill Beitler, marketing director and senior vice president with Irwin Union. "They struggle to offer the personalized, tailored business that the business owner wants."
Irwin Union Bank will lease 6,300 square feet of space in the building from Irgens Development Partners, LLC and Williams Development, which own the property.
The former Gimbels parking structure, which was constructed in 1946, has an assessed value of $3.0 million, according to the Milwaukee City Assessor’s Office.
Corbisier, who is running the Irwin Union’s Brookfield office, said work has begun to install new windows, paint the exterior and install new signs at the downtown Milwaukee site.
Corbisier said the building’s owners will be paying for the exterior renovations, while interior work will be a joint venture between the bank and the landlords – estimated at $300,000.
The bank initially will occupy about 6,300 square feet of the 9,300 square feet of available office space in the building. Beitler said the additional space will give Irwin Union space to grow into when it’s ready.
Irwin Union Bank has locations in Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin. The Irwin Union Bank and Trust Co. has banks in Indiana, Michigan, Utah and Nevada.
Irwin Financial Corp. is a publicly held firm, and its shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol IFC.
Beitler said Irwin Union Bank, when coming into a new city, hires bankers who have been working in the community for years and know the subtleties of the local business climate.
"A lot of big banks go in there and buy the banks and lose a lot of their customers in the process," Beitler said. "We go in and buy the bankers. We find the people that take care of the customers and give them the opportunity to run their own franchise. And we give them a lot of back-room support, with a lot of local control."
Corbisier said he expects Irwin Union Bank to be well-received in the downtown Milwaukee market, given the response he saw at the Brookfield location.
"We have learned in short order that the combination of Milwaukee’s dynamic economy, our experienced team of local financial professionals and the time-tested Irwin Union style of highly personalized service is a favorable combination," Corbisier said. "Our acceptance in the market has exceeded our expectations and put us in a position to make this significant investment in a new facility."
November 26, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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