Nearly 90 years of history came to a close as Wells Fargo left its iconic downtown Davenport building over the weekend to move two blocks away into a new beginning and the next chapter of downtown redevelopment.
There was a flurry of activity as workers locked the doors of the Wells Fargo Bank Building for the last time Friday afternoon, cleared their desks and packed up their last-minute boxes. Moving crews went to work after the bank closed early and relocated the bank from the historic office tower at 3rd and Main streets to the new downtown offices at 104 W. 2nd St. Staff spent the weekend unpacking their business areas as well as install and performing checks on all the technology needed to get the branch operational.
Wells Fargo reopens at 9 a.m. today at its new location in City Square at 2nd and Brady streets. The building is the first of three in a half-block stretch being renovated to become Restoration St. Louis' new $60 million City Square.
"There's nobody here, it's an odd feeling. We're really moving now," Carrie O'Neill, Wells Fargo's Quad-Cities market president and regional private banking manager, said Friday afternoon as she surveyed her old office. "It's bittersweet; you can be a little sad. It's been home for so long."
"We're going from one piece of history to the next piece of history in the making," she said.
The move comes one year after Wells Fargo Bank announced plans to relocate to the former Parker Building.
"It was important for us to continue to be a very important part of downtown Davenport," O'Neill said. While the bank was committed to downtown, she said today's banking model no longer required the 70,000 square-feet it had in the old building.
"The lobby was huge and really, banking has changed," she said, adding that her 48-member staff now occupies 23,500 square feet of modern office space.
Makeover dresses up former store
Wells Fargo's new space spans the first floor, a mezzanine and the second floor of what once was the M.L. Parker Department Store. O'Neill said Restoration St. Louis "did a really nice job of staying true to the integrity and history of the building but with a new flair."
With a modern floor plan on the first floor, the mezzanine area — filled with individual office spaces made of glass and wood — has a view down onto the retail banking area and business banking offices. "We're really proud of that,'' she said of the mezzanine. Her department, private banking, occupies most of the second floor of the building.
Wells Fargo also "wanted to be true to Davenport ... and be part of its growth," O'Neill said of the relocation.
Bank employees know customers will miss the building occupied since 1927 by Wells Fargo and its predecessors, including 60 years by the former Davenport Bank & Trust. "Folks will miss walking into the grand entrance in the lobby, but honestly, not a lot of people walk into the lobby," O'Neill said.
Online banking, direct deposit and ATMs have dramatically changed the face of banking, she said. "More people want to do more on their mobile devices."
Jason Clay, business banking manager, said customers recognize the significance of the move. "The emotions I get from customers in a lot of cases is the excitement that we're in on the ground stages" of City Square's development.
Meanwhile, staff is enthusiastic about the reconfigured space and the new technology, including video conferencing. "That will allow us to video conference with our customers who travel or vacation in other areas," he said. "We're seeing the technology get to a point where more and more folks are comfortable with it."
The closer quarters, he said actually will help instill more team cohesiveness. In the old bank, departments were far removed from each other.
Wells move raises interest
Amy Gill, who with husband Amrit Gill owns Restoration St. Louis, said landing Wells Fargo as an anchor was a big win. "They're such a stable tenant," she said. "I think they'll be a great asset to the building, anchoring it and anchoring downtown."
Gill added that Wells Fargo's opening now will spark more interest in the remaining Class A office space and its 20 luxury apartments, of which five already are leased. "The downfall of downtown is people don't believe (a project) is going to get done. Once you get some of it done, that's when the real interest begins," she said. The St. Louis developer had the same experience when it redeveloped Market Lofts in downtown Davenport's warehouse district.
Two more commercial tenants, Hub International/Ruhl & Ruhl and Cottingham and Butler, will move into City Square in June above Wells Fargo's space. Gill said their relocation from the former Putnam Building will allow construction to begin there on what will be Blackhawk Suites hotel. The Gills own the Hotel Blackhawk, which they renovated.
"We're already doing selective demolition and starting to clear it out," Gill said.
The Center Building will provide a second floor connection of City Square, which runs along 2nd Street between Brady and Main streets. It will include 12 apartments, executive conference facilities, a fitness center and some retail.
Planning the move
For Wells Fargo, preparing to move the bank has involved months of pre-planning and coordination involving not only the local staff but Wells Fargo project team managers from across the country.
"We need to be up and running for business at 9 a.m. (today)," said Sherri Wagler, community bank district manager, who oversees the retail operation.
According to Wagler, planning began in 2014 when the bank's lease was coming due. Plotting the move "has taken a lot of hours, multiple tasks and many phone calls, as many as 17 or 18 major conference calls," she said. "We've been doing weekly conference calls for some time."
For the retail team alone — made up of tellers, personal bankers and managers, the move involved 200 individual tasks ranging from moving furniture and equipment as well as the shipment of cash to the new location.
Just like emptying out a long-occupied house, staff diligently scoured every inch of the Wells Fargo Building. In tucked-away storage areas, they uncovered outdated and unnecessary things as well as pieces of the bank's history. Some of the unusual finds were shipped to Wells Fargo's Archive Department for use in its museums.
Tasked with clearing what they call "the dungeon," business associate Christine Mirfield said "One of the cool things we found was a handwritten balance sheet from the second quarter of 1938. It was metal-bound and in a vault downstairs."
"We had an endless amount of space so people found a way to fill it," she said.
Wagler said the bank will spend until June "decommissioning" the old building and removing furniture and equipment that did not get moved. It will leave behind items that are part of the historic structure such as the iron teller booths, the ornate chandeliers, and check-writing stands.