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Evans Bank may choose Main Court Building for branch

Evans Bank hasn't revealed where it will open a downtown branch, but may have dropped a big hint.

A legal notice published Thursday points to the Hamburg-based bank seeking permission to open a location on the second floor of the Main Court Building, at 438 Main St., across from Lafayette Square.

Evans officials wouldn't confirm if that is the bank's preferred option, and said the notice was published prematurely, without authorization. Evans president and CEO David J. Nasca said the bank is deciding between two downtown locations, and is leaning toward one, but has not yet signed a lease. The bank also needs to apply to federal regulators for approval to open a branch, he said.

Evans has announced plans for a downtown branch without specifying an address. The legal notice identifies the second floor of the Main Court Building as a candidate. There is a vacant suite at the top of the stairs and escalators, overlooking Main Street.

Vacant second-floor suite in Main Court Building could become an Evans Bank branch. (Matt Glynn/Buffalo News)

Nasca, speaking generally about a downtown branch, said it will be in a "conspicuous" location. He described it as a "business and relationship center. It is a differentiation from your standard branch or even a financial center."

Nasca envisions the location as "advisory and consultative" space, with a coffee bar, copies of the Wall Street Journal, and large screen TVs showing CNBC. "I think there's going to be a significant cool factor to the building that people will want to be in," he said, following the bank's annual shareholders meeting at its headquarters.

Evans already has customers downtown and sees opportunity to add others, he said.

Some other banks have added downtown branches lately, including Bank on Buffalo and Five Star Bank. But Nasca said Evans has been planning its own downtown branch for a long time, and wasn't following its competitors' lead. "We wanted to make sure it was the right location for us," he said.

The purpose of opening a downtown branch is "really a presence," Nasca said. "That's the word. We're a community financial institution. We've been growing to the north for a long period of time, and this is just a visible representation of, 'We're there.' "

Evans has grown to 285 jobs, up 20 from a year ago, reached $1 billion in deposits last year for the first time, and had record-high profits in 2017. Nasca says Evans can build on that growth, but he doesn't see prospects for acquiring another bank.

"We'd love to be an acquirer if there was an opportunity, but the raw material in this market is gone," he said. "First Niagara and M&T did everything up the Thruway probably through Syracuse. So there's not a real lot of opportunity for us to go find a bank and say, 'Hey, we want to be your partner.'"

Evans in early 2017 raised $14.2 million in capital, which Nasca has drawn upon for its growth. "Growth eats capital," he said. "We've been growing really fast, we've been investing in some businesses" including government banking and employee benefits.



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