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Metropolitan Bank opening Poplar Avenue branch in former Loeb Properties building

Metropolitan Bank is opening its first stand-alone branch in Memphis in a building that previously was headquarters of Loeb Properties Inc.

Loeb is investing more than $1 million for improvements to the 5,000-square-foot, 1960s-era office building at 5264 Poplar, said Loeb senior vice president of brokerage and development Matt Prince.

Metropolitan’s Tennessean Division president Philip May said Metropolitan has signed a 10-year land and building lease with multiple options that will keep the bank in the freshened-up space for some time.

“You won’t recognize the building when we’re done,” said Metropolitan’s president and CEO Curt Gabardi. “The facade of that building will change 360 degrees.”

The expansion for Metropolitan comes as the competition for customer deposits and strong credits continues to be a dogfight between national lenders and super regionals and community institutions. Those banks and credit unions that have the capital and customer base have been adding branches and executive office space to take advantage of lower costs in a down real estate market.

Metropolitans’s new full-service office should be open by November, May said.

Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. will serve as the general contractor on the project. Graham Reese Design Group, which handled’s Metropolitan’s recent 3,000-square-foot expansion of its executive office in The Legacy Building on Aaron Brenner Drive, is designing the branch.

Committing to its first free-standing branch in the Memphis market (The Legacy Building has a ground level Metropolitan branch) was driven by strong deposit and loan growth and the attraction of talent, Gabardi said.

As of March 31, Metropolitan had total deposits of $428.9 million, a 17 percent increase from the same time a year ago. Total loans were up 18 percent over the same period to $350.6 million, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

It was just a year ago that Metropolitan raised an additional $11.2 million in capital from existing shareholders to take advantage of growth opportunities. In March, the bank expanded its private banking team by hiring long-time Memphis banker Holly Bronson away from Magna Bank as a senior managing director to help grow Metropolitan’s health care business. In April, the bank started construction of its Mississippi headquarters in the Jackson suburb of Ridgeland.

Loeb moved in mid-2007 to its new 8,000-square-foot headquarters at 825 Valleybrook, leaving behind a Poplar address that, had it not been for the proceeding economic climate, would surely have been snapped up sooner, Prince said.

“The economic downturn . . . seriously created a lack of interest,” he said.

There was interest from the financial, medical and legal community, he said, but ultimately a bank won out. The real estate is just too enticing for customer-starved banks.

Prince notes that between I-240 and Grove Park just west of Perkins, there are 26 bank branches. Metropolitan will make that 27.

Metropolitan, the banking subsidiary of Metropolitan BancGroup Inc., is co-headquartered in Memphis and Ridgeland and operates five banking offices in Tennessee and Mississippi. It acquired a Tennessee charter in 2008 through its acquisition of Bank of the South.

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