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KeyBank picks Delavan-Grider neighborhood for new branch

KeyBank spent a long time deciding where to open another branch on the East Side.

Its search has culminated at the northeast corner of East Delavan Avenue and Grider Street, at a shuttered Rite Aid. KeyBank plans to transform part of the vacant building into a branch that will open next spring, pending regulators' approvals.

Key officials said the neighborhood the bank chose stood out for what it lacked. "When we looked at it and it was mapped out, this was like a doughnut hole," said Catherine Braniecki, Key's regional corporate responsibility officer. "So if you looked to see where other financial institutions were around, there weren't very many."

Key's new branch is part of a five-year, $16.5 billion community benefits plan that Key announced before acquiring First Niagara Bank in 2016. The plan, which took effect at the start of 2017, is a mix of loans and investments covering all markets where the bank operates.

While Key had pledged to add another East Side branch, and publicly shared the idea in March 2016, the bank had not specified where or when until now. The property, at 756 East Delavan Ave., is less than a mile from the Erie County Medical Center, and a half mile from the Northland Workforce Training Center. The former Rite Aid shares the busy intersection with a Family Dollar, a gas station and a McDonald's.

During its search, Key had considered building a new branch or renovating an existing property. The former Rite Aid building, which closed last year, is owned by Jeffrey M. Shanin of Chicago. Key will lease about 4,000 square feet of the 10,000-square-foot building; another tenant is expected to take the rest of the space. Key declined to say how much it will invest in the project.

Key's commitment to open another East Side branch, in a low- to moderate-income area, helped address local concerns about serving a part of the city considered "underbanked," particularly as Key was preparing to acquire First Niagara in 2016. But the East Side has drawn some new attention from banks. Northwest Bank will open a branch on Jefferson Avenue in early January. And M&T committed to spending a total of $2 million to renovate four East Side branches.

During its search for a new branch location, Key held a public meeting at True Bethel Baptist Church to gather input. That led to a broader discussion with residents about services lacking in some neighborhoods, said Gary Quenneville, Key's regional executive for upstate New York.

"The nice part of it is, we laid out a timeline that said it's probably going to take us 24 months to really decide where we want to be, and you have to weigh it against your other locations, weigh it against what the other community stakeholders are looking for," Quenneville said. "It's nice to be able to get this point and know where we're going to be," once regulators give the branch the green light, he said.

Key already has six branches east of Main Street, from a location at the Conventus building on Main Street, to the Broadway Market, to one at Bailey Avenue and Amherst Street. The search process took a broad look at that section of the city.

"We had a lot of locations already, but (the goal) was to look for the right one in the right place," Braniecki said.


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