BofA gets pushback from Highland Park neighbors
MICHAEL SCHWARTZ, Richmond Biz Sense
February 6, 2017
A group of Northside businesses and residents is trying to stop a banking giant from pulling out of their neighborhood.
Bank of America is slated to shut down its Highland Park branch at 1307 E. Brookland Park Blvd. in March. The closure was announced in December and an organized effort has since sprung up, bent on changing the bank’s mind.
Led by City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson, whose district includes that stretch of Highland Park, the group also includes residents, nearby nonprofit Boaz & Ruth and representatives of D.C.-based developer Community Preservation and Development Corp., which is finishing the $11 million conversion of the former school building across from the bank branch.
The group argues that the BofA outpost is the only bank branch in the neighborhood, with the next closest being 2½ miles away. The closure, they say, would leave the area without an easily accessible, traditional banking option.
Robert Johns, CPDC’s director of community development, said that 2½ mile distance isn’t as manageable as it seems for the neighborhood’s low-income residents who rely on the bus, particularly seniors.
“It sounds close, but on a bus at night it’s 35 minutes and during regular business hours is 45 minutes to an hour,” Johns said.
A community meeting was held on the topic in late January, and Johns said the worry is leaving residents to check-cashing stores and payday lenders, financial alternatives often described as predatory because of high fees and interest rates.
“The loudest sentiment that came out of the meeting was, ‘Please, no payday lenders or check cashing,’” Johns said.