New Washington Federal branch signs 5-year lease

November 26, 2013 • Local News

Crews remove the Bank of America sign from Sunwest Center’s office tower earlier this month. Washington Federal has assumed Bank of America’s new five-year lease at the site. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)

The new Washington Federal Bank [auth] branch at the corner of Fifth Street and Main Street, formerly leased by Bank of America, has assumed a five-year lease at the Sunwest Centre Office Complex, according to the center’s manager.

Bank of America sold the branch to Washington Federal in July as part of a massive deal that included selling 51 branches in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and New Mexico.

The transition at the Roswell location came at the same time that Bank of America’s lease neared an end.

Bank of America, however, did renegotiate its lease before turning over the branch at the end of October, said Ed McClelland, broker-manager at Sunwest Centre Office Complex.

“The lease was renewed and signed over,” McClelland said. “They’re going to be paying for the space for five more years.”

Washington Federal removed Bank of America signs and its ATM machine Nov. 1. The signs have not been replaced, but the lease pays for the new branch to display its logos on the side of the tower, McClelland said.

“They have the rights to stay there,” he said.

Washington Federal reopened the bank Nov. 1.

The branch leases space at the center, a complex that includes offices to professionals and Peppers Grill and Bar.

The complex, which was held under City of Roswell ownership for the past 30 years after it sold Industrial Revenue Bonds to pay for improvements, paid off its bonds in June and regained ownership of its land recently.

The Washington Federal purchase included acquiring $1.5 billion in deposits and nearly $11 million in loans from Bank of America customers. The bank said it would offer all Bank of America employees continued employment.

“All employees from the acquired branches will be offered continued employment with Washington Federal and every effort will be made to minimize disruption to customer banking routines at those locations,” according to a statement Chairman Roy Whitehead made in July.

Some customers reported a rocky transition earlier this month.

“The transition has not been smooth,” said Gary Parkhurst, a shift manager at Pizza Hut, who spent time at the branch trying to get temporary checks the day it opened.

“It now makes my life very inconvenient. They’re ill equipped to handle the changes.”

Parkhurst, a former Bank of America customer for 30 years, said he tried to get a cash advance to compensate for the lack of checks and services the bank could not provide.

“If this is their way of introducing themselves to Roswell, I’m not impressed,” Parkhurst said. “They whiffed this one.”

Steven Dumas, of Roswell, said his experience was going “better than I thought.”

“Everybody pulled their money out,” Dumas said about other customers after leaving the bank on opening day. “But I realized I didn’t have to do anything. I’m set up online. The ATM’s still not working, though.”

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