United National Bank of Washington, one of the District's largest minority controlled banks, has been awarded the only bank branch facility at the new $13 million Hechinger Mall.
The decision, released recently by the comptroller of the currency, was based largely on United National's record in approving loans within the city and came at the expense of a number of the city's largest banks. The comptroller's office must approve all bank branches.
"It is really a coup," said John Hechinger, chief executive of the hardware chain that is putting together the mall project. Hechinger said a savings and loan branch also would be located at the mall.
Selection of United National is particularly significant because it will be the only bank within a mile radius of the new mall, which is expected to be a magnet for shoppers throughout northeast and southeast Washington.
Further, the mall, located at the intersection of Benning and Bladensburg Roads and Maryland Avenue NE, is expected to provide the impetus for development of the entire area, which includes the H Street NE shopping corridor. The 40-store center is the only major shopping facility in the neighborhood, which is situated near about 300,000 people.
Samuel Foggie, president of United National, said approval of the application and contract arrangement with the Hechinger firm will give the bank an opportunity to serve the broad clientele that is expected to utilize the mall when it opens next spring.
"This branch will certainly improve our operations and services a great deal and will make United National stand out as one of the truly major banks in the city," Foggie said in an interview yesterday.
United National, a 15-year-old bank with four offices, is among the city's fastest growing, reporting profits of $563,000 last year, more than five times the previous year's level.
The bank has grown around a community-involvement philsophy, suggesting in its 1979 annual report that the bank's first priority is "moving excess capital into the needy, capital-short areas of community."
That's why the branch in the Hechinger Mall is especially important to United National, which hopes to take advantage of the expected economic development near the mall site.
Under federal guidelines, United National can grant only loans of up to $300,000, because of the size of its assets, limiting much of its business to relationships with small businesses. "Just about anything we do deals with small business," Foggie said.
The Hechinger Mall announcement also comes as United National plans to make a push to further develop its image in the District.
"Our growth has been from within," Foggie said. "But we want to be known as the friendliest, most efficiant bank in the city."