Washington Federal Inc. has opened its first Spokane bank branch in temporary facilities on north Division Street, and the Seattle-based bank is constructing a $3.5 million permanent bank building for the North Side branch and the bank’s Eastern Washington division offices.
The temporary branch is located in 2,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by Cogo Capital LLC, at 4610 N. Division. The branch is adjacent to a Bank of America branch at the southeast corner of Division Street and Wellesley Avenue.
The temporary branch is a full-service branch with five employees and an ATM, although it doesn’t have drive-thru service, says Doug Smithgall, the bank’s Eastern Washington division manager.
Meantime, Washington Federal has obtained a building permit to construct a two-story, 12,000-square-foot office building about seven blocks north of there, at 5322 N. Division, Smithgall says.
The project site encompasses two vacant half-acre lots on the east side of Division Street, just south of the Thai Bamboo Restaurant.
The office building will be erected on the lot at the southeast corner of Division and Sanson Avenue, and a 41-space parking lot will be constructed on the lot on the south side of the planned building, at the northeast corner of Division and Everett Avenue, site plans show.
Construction had been scheduled to start there this week, and is expected to be completed by fall, Smithgall says.
Baker Construction & Development Inc., of Spokane, is the contractor on the project, and Bernardo|Wills Architects PS, also of Spokane, designed it.
Smithgall and three other Washington Federal employees are based in temporary division offices in Liberty Lake.
“When the permanent branch opens, the four of us working here will consolidate in one building,” he says.
The new building will have room to expand commercial and consumer banking services, Smithgall says. “Our intent is to bump up by another five or six employees,” he says.
The bank branch will occupy half of the ground floor, and commercial and lending services will occupy the other half, Smithgall says, adding that the second floor will be leased out to other tenants.
The permanent branch also will have safe deposit boxes and two drive-thru lanes on the east side of the building with egress onto Sanson.
Washington Federal entered Eastern Washington in 2013 when it bought 51 Bank of America branches in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and New Mexico.
Smithgall, a 22-year veteran of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp., was hired by Washington Federal at that time, he says.
“Bank of America opted to pull out of smaller communities,” he says. “Washington Federal was looking to be in those communities.”
Eastern Washington division branches acquired by Washington Federal include branches in Deer Park, Newport, Chewelah, Colfax, and Clarkston.
The bank’s North Idaho branches are in Osborn and Sandpoint, although Washington Federal is looking to expand there, Smithgall says.
“We’re definitely looking to have a Coeur d’Alene-area branch at some point,” he says.
He says Washington Federal chose the temporary branch location because of its proximity to the planned permanent branch site, and it’s only a coincidence that the temporary bank branch is next door to a Bank of America branch.
“We didn’t want to wait until November to get something going in Spokane,” he says. “We were looking for vacant office space on the east side of Division. This is the closest place we could find that would work.”
Cogo Capital, a private money lender, closed its branch flagship branch at that location last fall and moved its operations to its parent company’s headquarters in Coeur d’Alene.
Lee Arnold, CEO of the parent company, Secured Investment Corp., told the Journal at the time the move was unrelated to allegations by the Washington state Department of Financial Institutions that it had violated the Business Opportunity Fraud Act.
This past January, Secured Investment entered a consent order in which, without admitting liability, the company agreed to cease and desist from violating the act and to pay the state of Washington $1,500 in investigative costs, says Suzanne Sarason, the Department of Financial Institutions’ chief of enforcement.
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