West Side alderman accuses U.S. Bank owner of ‘redlining’

October 16, 2012

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An alderman on Chicago’s struggling West Side is steamed about a plan by Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp to close a full-service branch in her neighborhood.

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) said the company’s decision to shut down its U.S. Bank outlet at 4909 W. Division St. blindsided her. “They’re leaving high-and-dry with no warning,” she said, calling the process “disrespectful.”

The branch is an anchor of Austin, a mostly African-American neighborhood hit hard over the years by factory closings and, more recently, home foreclosures.

But Mitts said there is still plenty of banking business for company officials to keep the branch open. “The money is good but they don’t want to be in the neighborhood,” she said. “That’s redlining.”

U.S. Bancorp spokesman Tom Joyce bristled at the alderman’s accusation. “It’s off base and unfortunate,” he said.

“In 2011, we put more than $152 million into affordable housing and economic development in metropolitan Chicago,” Joyce said. “We’re a proud citizen of the Chicago area and the Austin neighborhood and we’ll continue to serve the neighborhood.”

When the branch closes November 16, Joyce added, the company will leave an ATM and start shuttling seniors from that part of Austin to nearby U.S. Bank locations two or three times a month.

The branch on the chopping block was once part of Park National Bank, a commercial chain owned by Oak Park-based FBOP Corp. The chain was known for charity and investment in low-income areas. U.S. Bancorp acquired FBOP holdings as part of a 2009 federal rescue.

Austin community groups fought the U.S. Bancorp takeover. In 2011, bowing to pressure from the groups, the company agreed to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into affordable-housing efforts in Austin and Maywood, a nearby suburb.

U.S. Bancorp says it has 88 branches and 1,600 workers in the Chicago area.