ST. PETERSBURG — One of the few banking institutions in Midtown opened its doors Tuesday, and the first person to make a deposit was Mayor Rick Baker.
Right behind him was Carl Lavender, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, who accepted a $5,000 check from the GTE Federal Credit Union's CEO, Bucky Sebastian.
"The kids will come back and make a deposit," said Lavender. "It's wonderful."
The financial institution's opening at 2190 18th Ave S., across the street from Sweetbay Supermarket, was lauded by city officials as a triumph of Baker's administration, which nine years ago promised to bring a bank, post office, library and supermarket to the poorest part of the city.
The city facilitated the credit union's arrival by selling it the property for $1 in exchange for an agreement that it stay there 50 years. The city also made $225,00 worth of improvements to the sidewalks. The city paid nearly $1 million for the property and surrounding lots over a decade ago.
Another financial institution, Sun Trust bank, bought an adjoining lot for $500,000 but has since abandoned plans to build a branch, city officials said.
Sebastian said 17,000 of the credit union's 200,000 members live in south St. Petersburg, many of them former employees of the now-defunct Peninsular Telephone Co., which the credit union was created to serve.
The city, which recently launched its Bank on St. Pete financial literacy program to help people avoid predatory lending and save more, is collaborating with the credit union on programs. Unlike a traditional bank, the credit union is a nonprofit organization owned by its members.
The new 3,500-square-foot building has three drive-through lanes and a drive-up ATM. It is the second branch in St. Petersburg; the other is at 4584 38th Ave. N.
Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.