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Tue, Oct. 22

York lot changes hands; Summit Bank moves closer to reality<BR>

PRESCOTT – An investment group recently closed on a deal to buy the former York Motor Co. lot at the corner of Montezuma and Sheldon streets.

The group, ShelMont LLC, consists of about a dozen local and out-of-town investors who hope to break ground within the next year or so on a new multi-story building ranging between about 48,000 and 55,000 square feet, explained John Mull, one of the investors and a local attorney.

As part of its development plan, ShelMont hopes to lease most or all of the building's first floor to Summit Bank, a proposed locally owned and operated bank that recently submitted its charter application to state and federal authorities. ShelMont then would lease space on the upper floors to other businesses and/or professional offices, Mull said.

Despite the city's limitations on height, he added that the group wants to build "a large structure" that would be a "signature downtown building" with attractive architectural features and plenty of parking.

Since buying the 1.25-acre lot this past month for $1.2 million, ShelMont has begun drawing up plans, and it hopes to complete the new building within the next couple of years or so. Prior to construction, the group would demolish the existing York building.

The purchase price, Mull explained, was in line with what Walgreens offered for the property last year, when it was considering the site for a new freestanding drugstore. Walgreens ultimately pulled away from the deal, citing concerns about how its store would fit on the lot, as well as floodplain issues.

But after spending several months performing due diligence on the site, Mull said that ShelMont found no problems whatsoever with the property. "We got a clean bill of health," Mull said.

Similar to much of downtown, he explained, the York lot sits within Granite Creek's 100-year floodplain; however, ShelMont can overcome that problem by raising the lot, using a special lining, or putting a garage on the ground floor.

Earlier this year, Mike Keller, president of Summit Bancshares Inc. (holding company for the proposed Summit Bank), announced the formation of Summit Bancshares and its intention to launch the new full-service bank.

About a month ago, the holding company submitted applications to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Arizona Banking Department, and both agencies accepted the applications for review, Keller said.

As part of its application process, Summit Bancshares has raised a total of $5.3 million from numerous local and out-of-town investors.

If the two agencies approve its applications, Summit Bancshares then must make a third application to the Federal Reserve Board. Pending any unforeseen regulatory hurdles or application problems, Keller said that the holding company hopes to open the new bank by September or October.

Currently, the firm is renovating about 5,800 square feet of space on the ground floor of the Bulleri Professional Building on North Cortez Street. The bank, Keller explained, would operate in the Bulleri building until ShelMont completes its new building, and it may even continue to exist as a satellite branch, depending on the bank's volume of business, he added.

"We want it to be a really inviting and friendly banking atmosphere," Keller said. "We want to go back to 'person-to-person, know-your-name' service … no '800' numbers, and no automatically getting put on hold when you call."

Contact Chad Simpson at csimpson@prescottaz.com.

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