A Very Different CU Construction Project

By Ray Birch

PORTLAND, Maine–At its newest branch downtown here, cPort Credit Union features something unlike any other CU branch in the country–a luxury, $2-million condominium that occupies the two floors above it.

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It may be one of the most unique CU construction projects ever, acknowledged CEO Gene Ardito, whose credit union not only built the two-story branch from the ground up, but decided to construct the condo on top of it.

“Yes, maybe you’ve never seen a credit union do this before,” said Ardito. “And the reason is a credit unions normally would not do this. But the situations we faced as we planned for construction of our office made this the right move.”

Ardito said the $218-million credit union never imagined it would be building a condo when it bought the land four years ago.

“We purchased a piece of land in a very desirable section of Portland,” Ardito explained. “When we purchased the land in 2015 the section of town was not as desirable as it is today; it was prior to the building boom here. This was a really good acquisition for us.”

The area around cPort’s new office has become a hot spot in town where many people now want to live and work, with not just new residences popping up, but other companies building in the area, as well.

‘Great for Us’

“It’s great for us, because their employees can become members of the credit union and can simply walk from work to our office,” he said. “Our branch commands a really cool spot at the corner of India and Middle Streets. We are located in a historic section of the city, on the oldest street in Portland.”

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What led cPort to finally decide to build the condo were construction regulations in the historic section of town, where building codes require offices to be of similar height, typically three floors, but no more than four.

“We only needed two floors for the branch and its operations, and if we built a third floor we would have had to construct an additional stairwell to meet fire code,” explained Ardito. “Well, the lot we have did not have the space for the additional stairwell, so we had to consider the additional floor for another purpose.”

Made ‘Most Sense’

Among the ideas it began considering: residential space. The CEO said the credit union decided that given the prime location and water view, it would add two more floors on top of the office for the living space. Portland is located on a peninsula that juts into Casco Bay on the Atlantic Ocean.

“It just made the most sense to us,” said Ardito. “We knew we would have little trouble getting people interested in buying the condominium. And we were right; the first few weeks we put it on the market several interested buyers have stopped by.”

The 2,570-square-foot condo has a view of the Willamette River waterfront. The property includes quartz kitchen countertops, an interior bar area that leads to the outdoor rooftop terrace, and Sonos smart-home technology to control everything from lighting to music. The condo has its own entrance and elevator, a walkable neighborhood and waterfront access.

Co-Owner of Building

The buyer of the condo will co-own the building with cPort and will be the sole resident. The condo has been listed by Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. The listing can be found here.

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cPort will take its time deciding on the final offer, as Ardito emphasized there are many buyers making bids at what he called a high price point. He noted the sale of the condo will make the cost of building the branch very affordable for the credit union.

“We have saved a lot of money by building the condo and eventually selling it, in this now very prestigious part of town,” he said. “We will use that money to help our members even more.”

The credit union’s branch is on the ground floor and was described as bright and cheerful with four teller stations and an Apple-inspired "technology bar" equipped with iPads. It includes floor-to-ceiling windows that let in lots of natural light, and a 1923 photo of an Italian bank, Banco di Napoli, that stood on the corner lot at the time.

‘Means to an End’

Ardito called the condo “a means to an end,” adding state and federal regulators did not raise objections  to the unique CU construction project.

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“We have been fully transparent with our regulators,” said Ardito. “We've been upfront with them and they never had any issues with what we were doing. They see that the building makes sense, that we have a good strategic plan associated with it—absolutely no issues.”

Ardito said the condo also reflects how cPort is “forward thinking.”

“At cPort we like to think we are open-minded to new things and new approaches, and the condo is just a different approach to take advantage of a great location in a booming area,” he said. “I don’t think this credit union has ever really followed what others are doing.”

‘Not Your Typical Office’

That was the thinking behind choosing the land for the new office in 2015.

“We did not want to build a branch where everyone else was,” said Ardito. “This is not your typical office. There are no other financial institutions around. It’s an urban branch—no drive through, no parking lot. We really stand out here, which is the whole point.”

But cPort isn’t getting into the residential real estate business, assured Ardito.

“Our core competency has not shifted,” said Ardito. “This is just a one-time situation. The credit union is not a developer. We won’t be doing this again.”

Section: Standard
Word Count: 1308
Copyright Holder: CUToday.info
Copyright Year: 2019
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URL: http://www.cutoday.info/THE-feature/A-Very-Different-CU-Construction-Project