Building demolished in downtown Renton to make way for First Savings Bank Northwest loan center

An excavator with a claw digs away Thursday at the a building on the First Savings Bank Northwest campus on Wells Avenue in downtown Renton. The bank plans to build a four-story loan center in its place.

The noise of progress filled downtown Renton this week.

A 1 1/2-story building that has housed all or part of First Savings Bank Northwest on Wells Avenue over the last three decades or so was demolished to make way for the bank’s new four-story loan center.

An excavator equipped with a claw munched on the brick building for much of the week, reducing it to rubble – and drawing curious onlookers with cameras in the process.

The bank opened in Renton in 1923 as a savings and loan association, geared toward making loans to Renton-area families so they could buy a house. The bank holds to that close-to-home business model today.

First Savings Bank Northwest has about 100 employees.

The new $8.5 million expansion by First Savings Bank Northwest comes as other major banks are struggling through the recession. However, Victor Karpiak, the bank’s chief operating officer, said his bank has felt the downtown in the housing market.

But the bank’s traditional “conservative” operations have allowed the bank to meet those challenges and continue to grow, he said. For example, the bank has not ventured into “exotic products,” such as sub-prime loans.

“The bread and butter of our operations is performing well,” he said, referring to residential loans. “And, we stay close to home.”

The demolished building was built in 1977 and over time additions were made, according to Karpiak. An original bank building stood where the parking lot is today.

Not touched is the bank’s “new” 50,000-square-foot headquarters, which opened in 2005 and which Karpiak has said has been outgrown. Banking operations are there, along with corporate offices.

The new building will house all loan operations, including residential, business and commercial. Those who work most closely with the public – loan originators – will have their offices on the first floor.

First Savings Bank Northwest maintains its own portfolio of loans, meaning it doesn’t package and then sell them to another institution. The building’s third floor will house the Loan Servicing Department.

Demolition is expected to take about a week, with construction starting in about a month. The new loan center is expected to open in less than a year.

Construction won’t affect banking operations, other than moving the drive-in teller to the bank’s garage. The ATM also is out of service, but the bank recommends that customers use the Allpoint Network.

Employees in the loan department are working for now in space at the Spencer Court building at 334 Wells Ave. However, Karpiak said they will come to the bank on South Second to meet with customers.

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