Two years ago this month, officials broke ground on a new bank at Cleveland Avenue and South Eighth Street. TFNB Your Bank for Life, which saw enough potential in Chip and Joanna Gaines to finance some of their early efforts and help them buy two rusty grain silos, wanted to join progress percolating around the Gaineses’ neighborhood.
This month, that multimillion-dollar project remains a work in progress, though bank President David Littlewood said crews have hit the home stretch. He expects completion “during the third quarter,” while site superintendent Mark Denton, with Pearson Construction, mentioned March or April.
If the two-story bank, with its galvanized steel roof, stone facade, cavernous interior, second-floor mezzanine and granite teller tops, does open for business in March, that would be 26 months from the ceremonial startup. The slab for the full-serve bank actually was poured in July 2017.
To compare, Baylor University officials broke ground on the school’s new $266 million, 45,000-seat on-campus football complex, McLane Stadium, on Sept. 15, 2012, and christened it with a 45-0 blowout of Southern Methodist University on Aug. 31, 2014.
That is a spread of fewer than 24 months.
Littlewood, whose bank also helped underwrite developer Shane Turner’s most recent expansion of the Waco Hippodrome Theatre at Eighth Street and Austin Avenue, confirmed bank construction is running behind schedule.
“With everything going on in Waco right now, contractors and subcontractors remain very, very busy,” Littlewood said. “We’re seeing delays of three to six months on some phases of the project.”
He said TFNB, based in McGregor and with a Waco location in Triangle Tower on Valley Mills Drive, wanted to create something unique and impressive when it committed to building downtown. It occupies land within walking distance of a new La Quinta Del Sol hotel, several fast-food restaurants, and Turner’s West Bay development that last week saw the grand opening of MOD Pizza, where customers build their own pies.
He said the bank’s first-floor interior will offer a “free-flowing” layout with a casual feel, a coffee cafe and wireless accommodations. Bank customers and other can hang out and enjoy the banking environment, he said.
Local architect Sterling Thompson designed the 15,000-square-foot building, which will have offices, at least one training center and a community room encircling the second floor, which is visible from the lobby. Outside users will have access to the community room, “which affords a panoramic view of downtown and the Baylor campus,” Littlewood said.
The bank definitely is no fixer-upper, he said. It occupies about half the tract TFNB owns there, with the balance primed to become yet another inner-city development site for TFNB or another user.
“Considering the warm colors, the woodwork and the stains to be included, I would describe the interior as homey,” said Denton, a 38-year veteran with Pearson Construction, whose resume includes involvement in Magnolia Market at the Silos, First Baptist Woodway, Baylor’s Hawkins Indoor Tennis Facility, Midway High School’s indoor football practice facility, the Insurors of Texas corporate office downtown, and the Texas State Technical College Aerospace building.
Denton blamed delays on weather, subtle but ongoing changes in the building’s design and use, and the challenge of juggling manpower.
“Used to be, you would have people lining up at construction sites for work. That’s no longer the case. Nearly anyone who wants a job has a job,” he said. “Our visits are from the homeless wanting to go through our trash for scrap.”
Littlewood said the bank, which can date its founding to 1889 but which changed ownership in 1960, will continue to place a premium on small business loans and creating opportunity for would-be entrepreneurs. His TV commercials, which featured Chip and Joanna Gaines before they became household names, typically showcase testimonials from business types.
Among them were Bruce and Beverly Bowman, owners of The Village Lamp Lighter in Lorena, which sells upscale lighting fixtures.
“We’ve known the Littlewoods for quite some time, and David once told us, ‘Whatever you need, we will make it happen,’” Beverly Bowman said. “We didn’t take out a loan, but he had a technician, an IT guy, come to our store and install a machine for direct deposits.”
Littlewood said the bank’s downtown location will employ 20 to 25 when it opens. He wants a third to half to be fluent in Spanish and English.
TFNB Your Bank for Life has grown to about $400 million in assets.