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Historic Bank Buildings

Cullen

Member
Messages
33
Points
2
It seems that most historic downtowns that I have seen have a number of bank structures that are really beautifully made. Many of these are no longer in use since there is less need for banking in center city areas than there used to be ( I guess because people are just more spread out, and many now banks are along state routes and around other areas catering to automobiles.)

My question is what types of reuse do you think would be suitable for some of these old bank buildings, many of which have beautiful marble facades, columns, and fancy decorative work (gold leaf, carvings, frescos, intricate painting, nice flooring, etc)? I have seen these buildings become performance centers, art galleries, and upscape retail establishments among other things, as well as being reused simply as banks and corporate offices. What other types of uses might seem appropriate to the existing quality of these buildings?
 

Queen B

Cyburbian
Messages
3,178
Points
25
I have seen one that was used as a restuarant. The bathrooms are in the vault. It worked very well for that.
 

martini

Cyburbian
Messages
678
Points
19
There one here in town that was incorporated into the local civic center/hockey arena. It's used as a banquet hall/wedding reception area. It works very well as that.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
Unfortunately, 2 really nice ones in Saint John were turned into really scuzzy bars, that have destroyed the interiors (removed columns, somehow wrecked marble floors and walls).

One odd thing happened there also, an old bank was a bar and has been turned back into a nak.

In Toronto, the hockey hall of fame uses the facade of an old bank.

I have to assume that michelson's gallery, in amherst mass used to be a bank.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,922
Points
37
donk said:

In Toronto, the hockey hall of fame uses the facade of an old bank.

I think they saved a bit more than just the facade. I seem to recall that the Stanley Cup room is the old vault? Something like that anyway. Lots of old banks have been converted to restaurants, coffee shops, etc.
 

Hceux

Cyburbian
Messages
1,028
Points
22
There's one in Kingston that has been empty since it closed. It was however used once for a few weeks...used by a local politician candidate, who didn't even get it anyways.

However, I do know an interesting story. One of the old bank building in London, Ontario, has been converted into a club. It's bringing people back to the downtown core, which is totally different for the city.

I'm not sure if this is true in the USA, but in Canada, some banks have merged in the last say 5 years. The result is a bunch of abandoned banks in communities across Canada.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
A local comedy club used to be a bank. Another bank is becoming a museum. One is being leased by the State as a DMV location. Other than that, restaurants seem to be pretty common.
 
Messages
5,352
Points
31
I've seem a few historic banks converted to upscale bars/nightclubs or banquet/reception halls. A few others have been converted to hotel or condo space.
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,551
Points
42
Our 1837 Greek Revival state bank sat vacant for nearly twenty years before I was able to help our Main Street association secure funding to stabilize and partially restore the structure. We found a buyer (who got it for a steal) who then finished the restoration. The first floor is a high-end antiques shop and the second floor (with its magnificent dome and sky-light) is a reception/meeting hall. The project has been very-well done and a success to both the owners and the community.

It's nice to see a "white elephant" become a productive asset again.
 

Wulf9

Member
Messages
923
Points
22
Banks are a tough re-use problem. They are designed to look like a fortress (lots of wall, few windows, no windows that allow you to look into the bank), so you "know" your money is safe.

So, it's hard to put a retail use in a bank. They don't have display windows and they are uninviting to those who don't have business to be done. For historic banks, you almost have to destroy the facade to get display windows. They often have design details (columns, arches, etc.) where you could cut some windows, but sensitive design is needed.

Also, banks are often in the "financial district" of a town, which often closes up at 5 p.m. In big cities, even Starbucks doesn't open on weekends in the financial districts.

Finally, because of the bank consolidation, some bank buildings are still getting lease payments, even though they are vacant. A bank closed through consolidation may still have 20 years left on the lease, and the landlord makes more by keeping it closed than he/she would make by leasing to another user.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Wulf9 said:
Banks are a tough re-use problem. They are designed to look like a fortress (lots of wall, few windows, no windows that allow you to look into the bank), so you "know" your money is safe.

So, it's hard to put a retail use in a bank. They don't have display windows and they are uninviting to those who don't have business to be done. For historic banks, you almost have to destroy the facade to get display windows. They often have design details (columns, arches, etc.) where you could cut some windows, but sensitive design is needed.

Also, banks are often in the "financial district" of a town, which often closes up at 5 p.m. In big cities, even Starbucks doesn't open on weekends in the financial districts.

Finally, because of the bank consolidation, some bank buildings are still getting lease payments, even though they are vacant. A bank closed through consolidation may still have 20 years left on the lease, and the landlord makes more by keeping it closed than he/she would make by leasing to another user.

It is odd that you characterize bank buildings as you do, as in my experience, the opposite is more likely*. In most small communities, the old banks are located in the most prominent sites, on corners on the main street. They tend to be very transparent despite the solid brick or stone construction, with windows along both street walls. Ironically, the many windows are often an impediment to re-use, as they cut down on wall space available for merchandise, and galleries or museums do not want the harsh sunlight they let in.


*The exception may be the large banks in large cities, such as on Wall Street in New York, NY or on County Highway B in Footville, WI.
 

SGB

Cyburbian
Messages
3,388
Points
26
Vermont examples

I can think of two reuse examples in Vermont.

Both were corner bank buildings in downtowns. One is now a locally owned coffee shop, and the other is an upper-scale men's clothing store.

Both are very strong businesses.
 

Wulf9

Member
Messages
923
Points
22
Cardinal said:
It is odd that you characterize bank buildings as you do, as in my experience, the opposite is more likely*. In most small communities, the old banks are located in the most prominent sites, on corners on the main street. They tend to be very transparent despite the solid brick or stone construction, with windows along both street walls. Ironically, the many windows are often an impediment to re-use, as they cut down on wall space available for merchandise, and galleries or museums do not want the harsh sunlight they let in.

I'm thinking about several small California towns I have worked in. Most of the banks don't have windows or, if they do, don't have useful retail windows.

Windows are the essential elements for a pedestrian downtown. At pedestrian speeds, it's good to have a change in view every 50-100 feet. Windows are always fun to look in, even if you aren't interested in the merchandise being sold. Blank walls are not good pedestrian frontages.

For those who want blank walls, consider that most retailers now use the "store as the window display." You look in the window and see the goods and shopping activity in the whole store, rather than a shallow window display.
 

JNL

Cyburbian
Messages
2,449
Points
25
We have a Burger King in one, with apartments above. This seems to work quite well.

Another is an upscale retail centre, including several local designers, right in the CBD.

Both beautiful buildings.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
Around ten years ago this bank building in the CBD was converted into a Lord & Taylor department store by constructing four new levels of sales floors between the columns.
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
San Antonio's council chambers are the lobby of a historic bank downtown, complete with a perimeter balcony and the best audio/visual set up I've seen for a municipality. There are a number of floors above the bank lobby, which serve as city offices.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Bank Re-Use

For you Philadelphians, isn't Striped Bass restaurant a former bank (or the like)?

In Oklahoma City, the magnificent Great Banking Hall in First National Center, with its soaring columns, is being retrofitted into a....small business development center. Oh well. It was temporarily used as a small banquet hall, which I think better complemented its beauty.
 

Rem

Cyburbian
Messages
1,523
Points
23
Restaurants including fast food are common. The only use not previously mentioned I am aware of is a doctor's consulting rooms - only about 1 km down the street from where I work.
 

smatt1973

Member
Messages
7
Points
0
Old Bank Buildings

Anyone in the NYC area should check out the restaurant Blue Water Grill in Union Square. It's a beautiful, converted bank, with a private dining area in the basement vault, as well as a jazz bar.

Also, the restaurant Marseilled in Hell's Kitchen is in a converted bank. Gorgeous arched ceilings and tile floors are from the original bank.

Both are beautiful.
 
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