Credit unions are planning expansion, relocations – …

THE SIGN SAYS IT ALL. The former Direct Stores gas station on North Barstow Street will soon be replaced with a new RCU branch.

Construction will likely start in a few months at two new branches of the Royal Credit Union – one in downtown Eau Claire, one in the Prairie River in Altoona – as the financial institution based in Eau Claire continues to grow and evolve.

RCU recently purchased a property at 317 N. Barstow St., and plans to demolish the old Direct Stores gas station and replace it with an approximately 2,500 square foot full-service credit union branch. The location, at the intersection of North Barstow and Madison streets, will provide parking and a driving window, and provide probable personal and business banking services, said Brandon Riechers, president and CEO of RCU.

The new branch will be a few blocks from RCU’s corporate headquarters on Riverfront Terrace, adjacent to Phoenix Park.

Riechers said RCU decided to build a new branch at the site because it saw an opportunity for continued development downtown. “If you think back to when we opened our head office here (in 2005), one of the main reasons we chose downtown is to redevelop the neighborhood, hoping that business would follow and that the neighborhood would be booming, ”he said. In the years that followed, this happened, he added, and the credit union and downtown itself flourished.

Since the development of River Prairie has taken place, we’ve kind of focused on this area, watching the market grow.



Even amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, RCU continued to grow, Riechers said: Over the past year, deposits have increased as members received stimulus checks, and RCU has also helped Facilitate Federal Loans from the Paycheck Protection Program for over 2,000 small businesses. .

Assuming city approvals are granted, Riechers said construction of the North Barstow branch will begin this summer and be completed in the first quarter of 2022. RCU branch retail operations at 1512, Bellinger Street will move to the new site and the Bellinger branch – which is in the space leased by RCU – will be vacated.

Meanwhile, construction of RCU’s River Prairie branch – the credit union’s first site in Altoona – is expected to follow a similar schedule and will open early next year. The 3,500 to 4,000 square foot building will be located on the corner of River Prairie Drive and Blazing Star Boulevard, just west of the gas station and car wash at Woodman’s Market.

“Since the development of River Prairie has taken place, we’ve kind of focused on this area, watching the market grow,” said Riechers. “This whole area has exploded with the development of the residential side and the commercial side.”

River Prairie – which lies just east of the town of Eau Claire and straddles US Highway 53 – is already home to several other financial institutions, as well as restaurants, service businesses, a motel, and a number of leisure facilities.

The opening of the River Prairie branch will allow RCU to move some operations there from its nearby Birch Street branch, which will allow the latter to focus solely on mortgages, Riechers said. The Birch Street location “is already in full swing” due to the growth of RCU’s mortgage business, he said.

Although the designs have not been finalized, Riechers said the two new branches will reflect the changes underway in the needs of credit union members. For example, as more and more financial transactions are done digitally, branches are moving into what Riechers calls “training centers” where members can learn more about products (such as mortgages or auto loans. ) and services instead of just making deposits and withdrawals.

The new branches will also reflect members’ desire for privacy: instead of open-concept lobbies with islands of kiosks, there will be more traditional offices where members can speak with employees behind closed doors. In addition, the design of branches will be more intuitive and less intimidating, making them more welcoming to “unbanked” people who may not have used a financial institution before and don’t know how to navigate them. , Riechers said.

The two new branches will bring RCU to a total of 24 locations across western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, and Riechers said further growth is possible.

“I certainly think that over the next few months there will be other changes,” he said. “There are certainly many opportunities that have presented themselves throughout the pandemic.”

About Warren Dockery

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