Want to Buy an Empty Bank Branch? You Have Choices

Want to Buy an Empty Bank Branch? You Have Choices Crain's Chicago Business (08/20/17) Gallun, Alby

With people doing more banking via smartphone, local bank branches are turning into everything from restaurants to day care facilities to apartment complexes. After a branch building boom a decade or so ago, banks are closing offices by the hundreds as more of their clientele turn to online banking. As a result, they are indeed leaving behind empty space ready to be transformed into something else, whether an urban storefront or a free-standing brick building with a drive-thru in the suburbs. Kim McGuire, senior vice president in the Chicago office of CBRE, states, "If the real estate is strong, any number of things can happen to the property." Nevertheless, it's both a problem and an opportunity that will be here for quite some time.

Banks operate currently operate more than 89,000 branches nationwide, an 8 percent decrease over the last 10 years, reports Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). Researchers expect an additional 20 percent drop over the next decade. In the Chicago metro area alone, the number of branches decreased 11 percent between 2010 and last year to 2,863, notes JLL. The losses included a former Fifth Third Bank branch in suburban Wheeling, which became a Cafe Zupas. In Old Town, meanwhile, a SharpeVision Lasik surgery center now occupies the recently closed Fifth Third branch location at North Avenue and LaSalle Street. Banks are entrenching amid a broader shakeout in the retail property sector. Retailers that sell everything from apparel to electronics are permanently shuttering stores as e-commerce changes the public's shopping habits.

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