Philo Exchange Bank wants to be an active part of St. Joseph.
The bank has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire the vacant lot at 802 E. Warren Street. The bank plans to build a full-service banking facility on the property.
“Philo Exchange Bank had been discussing branching opportunities for some time now and we decided on St. Joseph for several reasons,” said Executive Vice President Les Hoveln.
Those reasons include proximity to Champaign-Urbana, the potential for growth, excellent schools, and a low crime rate.
The location was also chosen because of Hoveln’s past experience with the community. He was with Gifford State Bank for 17 years and was the Community Bank President in St. Joseph for 16 years.
Hoveln has served on the St. Joseph-Ogden School Board for 15 years and was instrumental in the creation and construction of the new baseball diamond west of town.
“St. Joseph is an excellent community,” Hoveln said.
During his time with Gifford State Bank, Hoveln was instrumental in bringing the institution to St. Joseph and was involved in the building process from the ground up, so he knows firsthand the challenges of finding the perfect location for a new bank.
Hoveln said Busey Bank closing the St. Joseph location in November opened the door to Philo Exchange Bank coming to the community.
“(A location in) St. Joseph creates another banking option for our existing customers in the St. Joseph area,” he said.
Hoveln said the bank decided on the Warren Street lot for several reasons, the first being traffic count.
“Most retail businesses want to locate where the traffic counts are greatest,” he said.
Hoveln said the bank did not want to locate in an area where there was another bank. Longview Bank has a branch on the north side of town while Gifford is located on the west.
“We would be on the east- so it would split us up,” he said.
Hoveln said the bank is also looking towards the future since village officials have indicated their desire for a residential development located southeast of the lot.
“If or when this occurs, we would be in a convenient location to assist those new residents with their banking needs,” he said.
Hoveln also noted that nothing is available downtown to provide adequate parking as well as a full-service banking facility.
A public meeting is scheduled for Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Village Hall located at 207 E. Lincoln.
Bank representatives will answer questions and have preliminary plans for residents to examine.
Hoveln said the bank takes great pride in serving the communities they are in and holds a lot of events for residents.
They annually host a free Santa breakfast, a community shred day and participate in Warm Hearts, Warm Hands which is a hat and scarf drive for local schools. They also raise money for local charities and collect items for local food pantries, as well as supporting schools through sponsorships and scholarships.
“Beyond our community donations, our staff at Philo Exchange Bank play active roles in our communities as well,” he said. “Included in that list are elected officials, a school board member, a PTO President, a village clerk, a cheerleading coach, several farm bureau members, an HOA officer, a yearbook advisor and several church volunteers. So as you can see, not only is our Bank active in our communities, but our employees are very active as well.”
Neighbors near the proposed property said they had concerns.
Allison Wright, who lives near the property, said she had spoken to neighbors in the area and they all had similar questions for the bank.
Wright said the neighbors would be asking how the bank would deal with increased traffic, how they would address potential flooding issues, whether they would allow semis to park in their lot, and what would the rest of the property be used for. Wright said neighbors also had questions regarding safety concerns with kids walking and biking to school.
Hoveln said he planned to address any concerns residents had at the meeting.
“Philo Exchange Bank wants to be a good neighbor,” Hoveln said. “It is our desire to build a full-service facility that not only conforms to the neighborhood but also meets the needs of our current and future customers.”