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Downtown banking to grow

First Financial to announce plans for Anthony Wayne

Another bank is opening teller lines in downtown Fort Wayne.

First Financial Bank and city officials have scheduled an announcement for 10 a.m. today in the Courthouse Green across from the Anthony Wayne Building, 203 E. Berry St., to announce “downtown development plans.”

John Nichols, a partner in RCI De­vel­opment/BND Commercial, last week said the building's landlords were close to signing a lease with a bank for a first-floor branch and sixth-floor offices. First Financial officials had declined to talk about their downtown office plans.

Officials with the Cincinnati-based bank said in January that their office at 130 W. Main St. was temporary.

First Financial stormed into the market late last year when it hired about 10 percent of Tower Bank's workforce in the interim between Old National Bancorp's Sept. 10 acquisition announcement and when the $110.3 million deal for Tower closed on April 25.

A First Financial spokeswoman on Wednesday declined to share details of the company's investment in its new downtown location or hiring plans.

RediMed, a local chain of urgent care clinics owned by Luther­an Health Network, last week announced plans to occupy 3,400 square feet on the Anthony Wayne Building's first floor. The clinic, which is creating 10 jobs downtown, is scheduled to open in the fall.

The health care provider's $4 million investment includes work at some other locations.

Other commercial tenants in the Anthony Wayne Building include Anytime Fitness, 111 Design, Verizon Wireless and the law firm Snow & Sauerteig.

RediMed and Lutheran officials described the location as ideal because the building lies across Berry Street from Citizens Square, where 500 city and county employees work; across Clinton Street from the Allen County Courthouse; and downstairs from 38 new condominiums.

First Financial in early January named Rob Slusser the bank's Fort Wayne market president. He was formerly Tower's director of lend­ing and senior vice president.

Hiring an established team of commercial and mortgage lenders – the employees who generate much of any bank's income – is a common strategy for banks expanding into a new market.

The lending professionals have established relationships with customers who might be lured to the new bank for future loans. Among the banks with offices and walk-in banking service downtown are JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Fifth Third, 1st Source, Salin and STAR.

sslater@jg.net

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