Chase Bank Retail Branch Experiment Expands to the South End

Chase Bank’s new venture into retail banking will hit the South End before the end of the year, one of the first branches to hit Boston neighborhoods after an aggressive goal to locate 60 branches throughout New England.

Alex Ong, of UDR’s 345 Harrison Ave., location in New York Streets, told the East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) on Tuesday they will host a Chase Bank location as part of their retail program in the new building.

“Our first tenant was CVS and they are open now, and our second was the Shore Leave Restaurant, which is open and doing well,” she said. “We have one other tenant under construction at the corner of Washington and Traveler. That will be a Chase Bank.”

Ong said the location will be more of a traditional bank branch and not a bank/café hybrid such as Capital One opened across the street three years ago at Ink Bl ock.

The announcement to EBNA followed a larger announcement by Chase in December that indicated it planned on opening 60 retail branches and 130 ATM locations in the region over the next five years. They also plan to hire 350 employees locally as well. That plan runs simultaneously with J.P. Morgan Chase’s move to get back into the retail banking market nationwide, just a few years after its competitor, CitiBank, abruptly left the retail market in Boston and beyond.

“This expansion will help create more economic opportunity for the people of Boston, a city we’ve served for over two decades,” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, in December. “By opening branches here, we’re able to lend to more consumers, further invest in neighborhoods, and offer good paying jobs.”

Within EBNA, it adds to the load of banks quickly coming into an area that was once desolate and considered the dregs of the City. Chase will join East Boston Savings Bank and CapitalOne Café in the neighborhood.

UDR’s Ong said they have a total of 35,000 square feet to lease.

In addition to the three tenants listed above, they are working out leases with a dog grooming and daycare service (not Urban Hound) that will be on the corner of Washington and Mullins Way. It should be built out by the end of 2019, she said.

Another lease is being worked out with a local dentist for 1,500 square feet. on the Traveler Street side of the block. Finally, a local bakery operator will be opening a location on the corner of Harrison and Traveler Streets in 2019. It is in design now and will also use some of the outdoor sidewalk space available.

That, however, still leaves a generous 5,000 square-foot space that is vacant with nothing in the queue.

“We’re still trying to fill space there and are continuing to attract a live dynamic to the open spaces,” she said. “We have about 600 homes we are trying to serve and also create amenities for the whole neighborhood.”

She did say that restaurant operators were not so interested in the retail space, noting that it is very hard to make the numbers work.

•Mayoral Liaison Faisa Sharif said that the two-way Washington Street and two-way Traveler Street plans should finally come to bear in 2019.

Those two changes in the New York Streets portion of EBNA have been in the works for years, since they were suggested at the conclusion of the Harrison-Albany Task Force meetings.

“It is in design now and we are looking to start construction in 2019 – improving signals and making intersections ADA compliant,” she said.

The plan would make Washington Street two-way from Herald Street to East Berkeley Street, and would make the portion of Traveler Street (Harrison to Washington streets) two-way as well. Traveler Street is already two-way from Harrison Avenue to Albany Street.

“That is going to really improve traffic flow and it is something we have advocated for as a neighborhood association for a long time,” said EBNA President Ken Smith.

However, Sharif said that the Harrison Avenue re-design will take much longer to get to.

“We are continuing to get funding for that from all the buildings that are going up now,” she said. “We cannot start construction on Harrison until all of the building construction is done. It doesn’t make sense to sink millions into the street until everything is built out.”

John Connelly said he hopes the City will coordinate with the Related Beal project at the old Quinzani’s location so they are ready to go when the building is done.

“My ask would be the City stay on top of Related Beal in terms of their completion date,” he said. “It would really be great if we could get a shovel in the ground as soon as they’re done.”

Chris Wells said she hopes that, in the interim, the would start clamping down on cars that park in the median strip of Harrison – particularly near the Whole Foods.

That was followed up with applause.

•The Whole Foods situation has come to a head for the neighborhood, and many in the EBNA are asking that the company get a better handle on their traffic and parking lot.

At Tuesday’s meeting, and even at last month’s meeting, members called for something to be done. Frequently, traffic backs up on Harrison Avenue as cars wait to turn into the Whole Foods parking lot. The backups also become dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists as frustrated drivers nearly hit pedestrians most every minute of every day.

President Ken Smith, as well as Councilor Ed Flynn, said they hoped to have Whole Foods come before the Association to talk about solutions.

•The Washington Street corridor is ripe for re-painting, Mayoral Liaison Faisa Sharif told the EBNA meeting. She said two weeks ago a project to re-stripe and repaint Washington Street, including the bus and bike lanes, was approved. She also said the crosswalks along Harrison Avenue will be re-striped in April as well.

•Small victories often result in great changes. That’s the case for one EBNA member who President Ken Smith said noticed a very negative situation at the Tufts Parking lot. The lot has been strewn with trash and the fence is rusted, and one member pointed it out in a letter to the owner.

After a walking tour, the owner has taken great strides to keep the lot much better maintained.

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