Bank to Move Outside

Bank of America is moving out of its interior space at The Mall in Columbia to a free-standing building next to L.L. Bean.

Construction has begun close to where a Cheesecake Factory is set to open this year, leading some passersby to confuse the projects.

The Bank of America location, which should be up and running by the end of the year, will showcase what one bank official described as "the latest and greatest technology."

The office will be much larger than the bank's traditional ones, said Brooke Hodges, a senior vice president at the company.

It will offer computers for online banking, a "media center" with a plasma-screen television, a drive-through window and safe-deposit boxes that customers can access using technology that recognizes palm images, Hodges said.

A similar Bank of America office opened last fall on Old Dobbin Lane in Columbia.

"The Howard County area is a rapidly growing market for Bank of America, and customers demand more access to us," Hodges said.

Karen Geary, the mall's senior general manager, said she expects the move from the lower level of the mall to outside will boost foot traffic through the bank.

"It will heighten their presence because they've got great streetscape," Geary said.

Grace Retiree Stays On

In April, David B. Siegel retired from W.R. Grace after 28 years there.

But he is not planning on cutting all ties to the specialty chemical maker.

For at least a year, Siegel -- who was senior vice president, general counsel and chief restructuring officer -- will act as a consultant on Grace's bankruptcy reorganization plan and pending asbestos-related litigation.

In his new post, Siegel will be paid $37,500 each month (or $450,000 for the year) and keep his company car, the company said in federal documents. (Last year, when he was working full time, he earned $1.3 million in salary and bonuses.)

W.R. Grace filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2001, citing a surge in asbestos-related claims in the previous year.

As of February, the company said its asbestos liabilities fell into three primary categories: about 130,000 personal injury claims filed by people who said they suffered from exposure to products containing asbestos; 4,300 property damage claims, mostly related to the installation of a fireproofing material sprayed on steel beams of buildings; and eight class-action lawsuits related to Zonolite Attic Insulation, used mostly in homes.

Senior Housing Advances

Plans to build senior housing units on an eight-acre tract at Cherrytree Park are closer to fruition.

The development, at Routes 216 and 29, originally was to include 200,000 square feet of commercial office space.

But the developer, Columbia-based Brantly Development Group, wanted to revise the plan to include senior housing. It presented two plans to the county: one with 128 units, the other with 76.

Recently, the Howard County Planning Commission chose the latter option, said John Liparini, president of Brantly.

"The commission would prefer to see more commercial as opposed to more residential space," Liparini said. "They are recommending approval for the next step, a public hearing before the Howard County Zoning Board."

Chamber Taps Karfonta

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce has elected Del D. Karfonta as its chairman. Karfonta is executive vice president of the Columbia Bank, a subsidiary of Columbia Bancorp, a holding company based in Columbia. He lives in Ellicott City.


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