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Construction moving fast on UCB's new building

Though half the block just west of 3rd Ave. SW on Main Street is now a big, gaping hole, by next summer, a brand-new three-story, 9,800-square foot addition will stand in that spot.1 / 2
Marie Nitke/FOCUS Contractor signs are now up at the site of the future United Community Bank in downtown Perham. Ground was broken Oct. 8.2 / 2

United Community Bank officials are saying their construction site in downtown Perham will "start looking more like a building" before the start of the New Year.

Though half the block just west of 3rd Ave. SW on Main Street is now a big, gaping hole, by next summer, a brand-new three-story, 9,800-square foot addition will stand in that spot.

The addition is being built onto the former Farmers State Bank building, which UCB acquired in a merger of the two banks in April. In an interview last week, UCB Vice President, Bob Cavanagh, said the new UCB building should be complete by next June, as long as everything goes according to schedule.

UCB planned the multi-million dollar project to provide a more spacious, private, user-friendly atmosphere for customers.

The new building is also expected to have a positive impact on the retail atmosphere of downtown, interconnecting the businesses along the west end of Main Street.

The main branch of UCB is currently located on 2nd St. SW (there are also three other branches, inside Dean's, in Dent and in Frazee). Company leaders decided to move the main branch from its current facility to the new building because of the latter's prime location on Main Street, and because it was a little newer.

Sandra Waldon, the bank's marketing officer, said ground was broken at the construction site Oct. 8, though plans for an expansion were in the works long before then.

As part of the project, UCB also purchased - and then tore down on Oct. 16 - an adjacent building formerly occupied by public accountant Bradley R. Helmeke, who has moved his office to a new location.

Today, crews at the site are still working mainly below ground level, pouring the foundation and working on what will become the new bank's basement. But soon the framing will go up, said Cavanagh; that part will go quickly, and then the interior will be finished throughout the winter.

The new bank's layout will look quite different from what customers are used to. Right now, UCB has few individual offices and most bankers' desks are out in the open in one large room.

In the new building, Cavanagh and Waldon explained, most bank employees will have their own offices, providing a more private banking experience for customers. There will be spacious public reception areas, including two atriums, and a larger teller area with two new sit-down teller lines. A fireplace and warm color tones throughout the building will invite customers in.

"The flow will take a little while to get used to, but in the long run it'll be beneficial to everybody," said Cavanagh.

On the outside, customers will notice an additional drive-through lane, as well as a new drive-through ATM machine. A parking lot will be added to the far west side of the block. The brick on the building's new addition will match the brick on the existing building, giving the bank a clean, matching exterior.

The expansion will give the bank a lot more room for storage, as well as space to house a server room and backup generator, which it's never had before. The generator will allow the bank to stay open for business even in the case of a power outage.

The extra space will also mean the insurance and investment sectors will come back in house, "so we'll all be under one roof," said Waldon. Investment Centers of America and United Community Insurance are currently located in separate offices downtown.

UCB has already sold its current building to Compass Engineering, a subsidiary of Arvig, and is leasing that space until the move is complete.

"We're fortunate that we're able to do this," said Cavanagh of the expansion. "It's been a whirlwind 2012 for us, between getting that merger done and embarking on this."

BHH Partners is the engineering partner on the project; construction is being done by Hammers Construction.