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SunTrust to open Steele Creek branch – 3 years after completion

For at least three years, the new SunTrust Banks branch in the RiverGate shopping center in southwest Charlotte has sat with the doors locked, the bank having never opened it. Shoppers, neighboring businesses and SunTrust customers have been left to wonder when, or even if, it might ever open.

The Atlanta-based bank provided an answer to that question this week, saying it expects to open the branch by early next year. It gave no specific date.

Spokesman Hugh Suhr said in a statement that the bank has been waiting for “a more opportune time” to open the branch.

“As with any project like this, there are a lot of moving parts including the recessionary climate the economy was experiencing,” Suhr wrote. “And we are pleased that we are planning on moving forward early next year with the opening to better serve our southwest Charlotte clients.” The bank declined to comment further.

The branch has been sitting idle in a major shopping center in the Steele Creek area, its windows covered up. RiverGate is home to roughly four dozen businesses, including Best Buy, Old Navy, Super Target and other big-name retailers.

The announcement that the branch will be opened comes as welcome news to some RiverGate business owners and store managers.

“It’s kind of an eyesore,” said Hillary Moulliet, owner of Art Space Studio, which has been in RiverGate for seven years.

“People are always asking, ‘When is it going to be open?’” Moulliet said.

Elizabeth Bland, an 81-year-old Lake Wylie area resident, said she shops at RiverGate, so it would be convenient for her to be able to use the branch there, 15 minutes from where she lives. She said she has to drive to Belmont, about 25 minutes away, to get to a SunTrust branch there when she needs to deposit a check.

“I couldn’t imagine them letting one sit like that, the expense that goes into building one, for four years,” she said. “Very surprised to see it, every time we go up, still shuttered.”

According to property records, SunTrust bought the 1.06-acre branch site from CK RiverGate LLC in September 2008 for $975,000. Attempts to reach Childress Klein, which developed the center in 2007, were unsuccessful.

The city granted approval for construction in June 2008, and Mecklenburg County awarded a certificate of occupancy in June 2010, according to the city. Construction costs for the branch were $708,000, according to permit records.

Other banks have branches near the shopping center, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. SunTrust has kept the branch closed even though it has said it wants to have more locations in south Charlotte.

The nearest SunTrust automated teller machine is in Fort Mill, S.C., according to the bank’s website, a driving distance of about 5.5 miles. The nearest branch is on Pineville-Matthews Road, a driving distance of about 10 miles.

Ashley McNabb, manager at Massage Envy Spa, said it’s strange that the branch hasn’t opened.

“This is a great location,” she said. “It’s been closed for so long it’s kind of been disregarded.”

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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