The leaders of Erie’s East Side Renaissance speak often about how Parade Street was once Erie’s main street, a hub of commerce and activity.
Parade Street bustled once again Thursday as more than 100 people turned out on a sunny winter morning for the announcement that a new bank is coming to the corner of East 10th and Parade streets.
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Calling the bank the worst-kept secret in Erie, ErieBank President Dave Zimmer said plans call for the creation of a bank and financial education center in a community that’s been without a bank for years.
Zimmer said it will be the bank’s mission to provide a familiarity with banking that many in the community lack.
“We want to be part of the neighborhood, not just a bank in the neighborhood,” Zimmer said.
A new bank was at the center of the ambitious East Side Renaissance announced publicly about a year ago and led by Bishop Dwane Brock, Marcus Atkinson, and Matt Harris.
Michael D. Peduzzi, CEO of Clearfield-based CNB Bank, the parent company of ErieBank, said Brock, who serves on the advisory board of ErieBank, pitched the idea of bringing a community bank to Erie the first time they met.
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It wasn’t a tough sell, Peduzzi said.
“We are living in the greatest country in the world,” Peduzzi said. “But we are only as great, though, as how we take care of all the souls of our nation.”
Thursday’s public event brought a show of support by community leaders, including Erie Mayor Joe Schember and officials from Erie Insurance, for what might have seemed like a pipe dream a few years ago, especially at a time when most banks are cutting the number of branches they operate.
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Tom Hagen, the chairman of Erie Insurance who urged Brock to take his pitch to CNB, said the idea of a new bank on Parade Street seemed impossible a few years ago.
“Now, I think it’s going to happen,” he said.
Will one investment lead to others?
“I am extremely excited about all of you being here today to jump-start a very ambitious, very serious renaissance,” Brock said Thursday.
Brock was clear, as he has been in the past, that the support of Hagen and Erie Insurance has been a key so far to the success of East Side Renaissance.
It has been the premise of the East Side Renaissance — a plan to invest in both the real estate and the people of the neighborhood — that a commitment from a bank would prompt others to make investments of their own.
Tim NeCastro, CEO of Erie Insurance, subscribes to that approach.
“We hope to begin by racking up one success after another,” said NeCastro, whose company was the driving force behind the formation of the Erie Downtown Development Corp., which has invested more than $100 million in downtown redevelopment efforts.
“It (development) is going to happen here and we are going to be there to help. I promise you that,” NeCastro said.
Christina Marsh, chief community and economic development officer at Erie Insurance, said so far the company’s assistance to the East Side Renaissance has been focused on providing in-kind services as the organization works to acquire real estate.
The company, she said, has provided its time, talent, and treasure any way we can.”
That will continue, she said. “We believe in the mission.”
Erie City Councilman Melvin Witherspoon said he’s been around long enough to see the evolution of the Parade Street neighborhood.
“I have seen the transition and now I see the future,” Witherspoon said. “I see development. I see we are bringing something to the neighborhood that has been missing.”
Thursday morning’s crowd said something about the importance of location and the hope that other investments will follow.
As Charles “Boo” Hagerty put it, “This will change lives.”
Contact Jim Martin at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: New bank location and financial literacy center to be built in Erie