Written by The Chicago Defender
This past week, the clock tower at 7801 S. State Street went through a renovation. The Northern Trust name came down and the Urban Partership Bank name went up. The question is: What will happen to the Independence Bank building?
Back in 1964, the late Mr. Alvin Boutte and Mr. George Johnson and several African American businessmen started Independence Bank at 7936 S. Cottage Grove.
For almost 50 years, a financial institution has been on the corner of 79th Cottage Grove. Although the original building was demolished, a modern structure was erected to replace it because of the growth of the bank.
In 1995, Independence Bank was sold to the now defunct ShoreBank which operated until it was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.(FDIC). The bank's assets were purchased by an investment group and reopened as Urban Partnership Bank in late 2011.
Earlier this year, Northern Trust Bank announced that it was closing its retail branch at 7801 S. State Street in a new retail strategy move. The building, branch assets and deposits were sold to Urban Partnership. The building also had a community room that various community-based organizations used for meetings. The space was leased to a not-for-profit housing organization, and several organizations were left scrambling for meeting space.
Urban Partnership currently has a fraction of the lending and deposit activity that ShoreBank had and has closed several branches. The old Drexel National Bank branches located in the Bronzeville community, that were acquired by Independence Bank, have been shuttered and replaced by a small branch building on 35th and Michigan.
The old headquarters of ShoreBank has a "for sale" sign and the Westside branches are up for sale as well.
The corner of 79th and Cottage Grove is currently experiencing challenges because of several large outdated structures. These structures attract nefarious activity and leaves a lot to be desired. Also, east 79th Street is considered the worst beat in the City of Chicago as reported by the Chicago Police Department.
So, the question that many in the Chatham community are asking: Will Urban Partnership abandon the Independence Bank Building for the old Northern Trust Clock Tower Building?
Calls to Urban Partnership have gone unanswered, so we will have to wait and see what will happen.