Fire drill, demolition in one at American Marine Bank

Fire Chief Jim Walkowski (left) displays proper chainsaw technique for cutting a louvre in the exterior flat roof of American Marine Bank Tuesday morning. The 1940s era building will be replaced with a new structure. - RYAN SCHIERLING photo
Fire Chief Jim Walkowski (left) displays proper chainsaw technique for cutting a louvre in the exterior flat roof of American Marine Bank Tuesday morning. The 1940s era building will be replaced with a new structure.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING photo

First the chain saws, then the bulldozers.

No, it’s not another new development in the woodlands. Rather, it was the plan for demolishing those portions of American Marine Bank that front Winslow Way.

Before the bulldozers could move in this week, the fire department took chain saws to the structure’s flat roof Tuesday for a “commercial ventilation” drill, practicing the cuts they would use to free smoke and gases in a real fire.

“We’ll be taking out most of the roof by the time we finish,” said fire department executive director Ken Guy. “This drill will also help us get ready for the aerial ladder truck, which is supposed to arrive sometime in June.”

It was a completely “dry run” – no fire or smoke.

The 1940s-era buildings to be demolished will give way to a new structure that will house the bank’s customer-service areas – teller lines, safe-deposit boxes and a public gathering area, said project architect Dennis Kirkpatrick.

When that work is finished, the bank’s retail customers will be able to walk directly off Winslow Way into the areas where they will do their banking business.

Until then, they will have to use the “back door” – the rear entry off the parking lot, near the post office entry.

“Getting to the lobby will be the only real inconvenience for our customers,” said former bank vice president Jackie Scherer, who came out of retirement to serve as project manager.

“Other than that, there will be no difference. We have not reduced hours, and the services will be the same,” she said.

The bank did reconfigure its rear parking lot, moving some employee parking out of the lot nearest the bank’s rear door to make more spaces available for customers.

Building the new customer lobby – the first phase of construction – will take an estimated nine months, according to contractor Bruce Woolever of Toilsome Construction.

“That old building has been remodeled so many times, we may find some surprises when we get in there,” he said. “The nine-month estimate builds in some margin.”

To keep disruption along Winslow Way to a minimum, construction access will be from the rear parking lot and the landscaped area between the old entry and Washington Mutual Bank.

The trees and shrubs in that area have been dug out and their roots wrapped in burlap for transplanting, Kirkpatrick said.

After the first phase is finished, the process will basically reverse itself. The rear entry will be closed, and the portion of the building that now houses the lobby and executive offices will be “taken down to the studs and rebuilt,” Kirkpatrick said. The new lower floor will house the bank’s commercial and real-estate loan departments.

The accent pieces that have conveyed the bank’s nautical theme will reappear.

The flagpole in the shape of a ship’s mast is in storage, and will be reinstalled after construction ends as part of a re-landscaped “flag pavilion,” which will also contain the ship’s anchor that has rested by the back door.

The clock on the Winslow Way facade has ticked its last tock, but a new clock will be incorporated into the exterior of the lobby, Kirkpatrick said.

“We’ll give people something to see while they’re headed for the ferry,” he said, “so they’ll know if they’ve got plenty of time or if they need to step on it.”

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