Seaway Bank wants Chatham location to be a community hub
BY TIA CAROL JONES
Seaway Bank, located at 645 E. 87th St, has been a part of the Chatham community for years, and now, it is undergoing some changes to ensure it remains a vital part of the community.
Seaway Bank began as Seaway National Bank of Chicago more than 50 years ago as a Black-owned banking and lending institution in Chatham.
It was founded by Ernest T. Collins and Moses J. Proffitt. In 2017, it merged with Self-Help Federal Credit Union.
Daryl Newell, president of Seaway Bank, said when Self Help Credit Union acquired the bank, it realized the 40,000 square foot property had uses outside of just being a bank branch. So, they hosted a charrette, with local elected officials, community organizations, realtors, developers and non-profits to collaborate on a vision for the building.
Newell said while all of the collaborators had different ideas on the best uses for the building, it was important to stick to Seaway Bank’s four point plan: To lend, to be accountable to the community, to have partnerships, and to be innovative.
“If we could work with our partners to be accountable to deliver a hub to the community, we would be doing what we said we were going to do when we acquired Seaway,” Newell said.
The Seaway Bank renovation costs approximately $14 million and involves new market tax credits. The renovation includes the first and second floors in the building and Newell said it would be used to offer space to other community groups that benefit the community.
One of those groups is Neighborhood Housing Services. It has moved into the 639 E. 87th St. part of the building. It created its own renovation and occupies approximately 4,000 square feet.
“We felt it was important to have them there because we’re in the business of providing home loans and they’re in the business of making sure they do the financial literacy around home loans. So, we thought it was a great partnership,” Newell said.
Donna Clarke is the interim president and chief operating officer of Neighborhood Housing Services, which is a nonprofit Illinois Residential Licensee that offers loans to homeowners and homebuyers.
Clarke said Neighborhood Housing Services decided to have a hub in Chatham at Seaway Bank because the organization delivers services in a lot of the South Side communities.
“We were looking at places, particularly that were historically Black-owned in the community. They had a history of serving the community,” she said. “We had looked at different spaces in the area and it was a great location. It just provided the space we needed to create a homeownership center.”
Clarke said the space will be used as an education center which will have drop-in space to support the community and space for the staff that works in the area. They have adapted the space due to COVID-19, which includes putting in plexiglass and providing online and virtual counseling and classes.
Clarke said they will also be testing out using Zoom, so clients can connect virtually to a counselor and making sure only half the staff is in the office so they can practice social distancing.
Clarke said she would love the hub to be a collaborative space, a central point for the community, to invite community partners to work with Neighborhood Services.
“We provide the home ownership component, but I would love to see other community leaders come in where we could meet once a month to talk about what are some of the needs and insights from the community, and provide a resource for residents,” she said.
She said they’ve modernized the space and are trying to leverage technology to help them “serve folks better whether they know how to use the technology or not, or we know how to use the technology to help them, that’s what I want for that space.”
Clarke said the space will open this week, for employees only. She said the organization is taking their lead from the city and the community. The goal is to open up more as clients and the community feel comfortable.
Newell said the East side of the building is being renovated, the Seaway bank side. He said the building will keep the midcentury design, with renovation on the inside and keep the outside look for historical, architectural purposes. The drive-thru space will return and the second floor will be available for lease for community space.
Construction is set to be completed in late November 2020, and ready for occupancy in early 2021.
“The plan is to have a state-of-the-art community hub that the community can use for the purposes of the community,” he said. “We thought it was a good idea to make the property accessible,” Newell said.