American Marine Bank plans expansion

"Seeking to re-establish a commanding presence on Winslow Way and make internal operations more efficient, American Marine Bank is planning a major expansion and facelift of its Bainbridge Island headquarters building.The main customer entrance, now a half-story below Winslow Way, will be at street level in the new building, as will the teller lines.The single-story facade along Winslow will be replaced with a two-story building, topped with three peaked roofs. But the hallmark flagpole configured like a ship's mast - and the clock facing the street - will remain.We want to establish our own recognizable landmark on the island's main street, said project architect Dennis Kirkpatrick.While the plan would increase the bank's space from just under 12,000 square feet to roughly 16,500, bank president Rex Townsend said the internal changes are more significant than the expanded space.It will be much easier to get around in our own building, Townsend said. Right now, if you want to go to the trust department or the mortgage loan department, you have to go outside.The present structure is actually three buildings. The wall where the walkup ATM machine is located on Winslow Way is the eastern wall of the original 1948 building. The part to the east of the ATM was added in 1955. The present teller area and the administrative space above the lobby and to the rear of the older buildings was added in 1973.The space occupied by the trust department is not bank property, but is leased from Town and Country Market.Management is dispersed throughout all those locations, Townsend said.There will be some real efficiencies gained when we are all in the same location, he said.The only addition to the building footprint will be an L-shaped addition on the west side of the structure. The addition will encompass the area between the sidewalk and the present entry to the teller lobby.The portion of the building west of the present front door will also be extended toward the sidewalk, but only as far as the benches and flagpole - the plaza area between the flagpole and sidewalk will remain.The landscaped area between the AMB building and the Washington Mutual building will remain largely intact, Kirkpatrick said, although the pathways may be rerouted slightly.The main entry will be on the western edge of the Winslow Way frontage. It will open to a teller line running east-west along the front of the building. The present teller area will become the mortgage-loan department, with administrative offices and the trust department on the upper floor.The entryway by the rear parking lot will be remodeled, Kirkpatrick said, and will resemble the front entry in appearance.An elevator will be installed at the rear entry to take customers either to the lobby or the trust department, Townsend said.Townsend said the new building will be fully accessible to handicapped patrons.Construction will be phased so that the bank can stay open throughout and so that no department has to move more than once, Kirkpatrick said.The original 1948 building and the 1955 addition will be demolished and replaced during construction, casualties of old building methods and modern standards, Townsend said.The old part is unreinforced concrete block, he said. It was not the place to be during the earthquake.The first bankThe bank, the island's first, was founded in 1948 by Louis Goller, with the backing of investors from the business community. Originally called Bainbridge Island Bank, it expanded rapidly and opened several branches on the Kitsap Peninsula, necessitating a name change.The new name of American Marine was a compromise between Goller, who wanted a name close to the beginning of the alphabet, and his wife Gloria, who wanted a name with maritime connotations.Over the years, Goller gave employees the opportunity to become shareholders in the bank. Today, the employee stock option plan owns 29 percent of the bank's stock, Townsend said.The Goller family owns the next largest block of shares, said Goller's son Jeff.The bank has assets of $254 million, officers said. After a period of contraction in the mid-1990s, the institution is expanding again with two branches on Bainbrige Island, as well as one each in Poulsbo, Seattle and Port Ludlow. We are a community-based bank, and we intend to remain that way, Townsend said. Townsend said budget numbers for the remodel are being assembled, and the final plan needs to be approved by the board of directors. Assuming the board gives the okay, Townsend expects a final project application to be filed with the city by mid-summer. While the approval process is unpredictable, Townsend expects it to take several months.Construction will begin reasonably soon after approval, Townsend said, perhaps early next year.Because of the need to keep the facility open during construction, Townsend estimated that the construction work would take a year.Townsend said the project aims at creating management efficiencies while preserving the down-home feel of the bank. The western frontage of the street level, called the customer service area, will be aimed at preserving the ambience.We want to encourage people to come in and talk with each other, visit with Eddie Rollins (the lollipop man) and have a cup of coffee, Townsend said.For cooler weather, the bank is putting a gas fireplace into that area.And, Townsend said, leashed pets will continue to be welcome.My dog wouldn't have it any other way, he said. "

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