On Tuesday, January 19, customers of M&T Bank began receiving letters notifying them that the bank would be closing the downtown Milford location, following in the footsteps of PNC Bank who did so two years ago.
“At M&T, we have always worked to build and maintain an effective, efficient and comprehensive network of channels through which our customers can access their funds and access our products and services,” said Philip Hosmer, Vice President of Corporate Communications. “Our network evolves constantly – it changes whenever we complete acquisitions, when we build new branches and move or consolidate others, and when we add new technologies.” According to Mr. Hosmer, the bank has added ATMs that now have the capability to scan images and take deposits as well as launched new mobile banking platforms to meet the changing needs of customers.
Mr. Hosmer explained that the banks are moving away from transaction-based locations and are now being used primarily for consultation and advice. All services that were at the downtown location will be moved to the West Milford branch, located on Route 113, which also offers Saturday hours, something the downtown location did not. The bank will keep the ATM located at the downtown branch open for the near future. Customers who have safe deposit boxes at the downtown branch will need to come in and arrange to move those boxes to the West Milford branch, but the bank will notify those customers specifically regarding that process.
Mr. Hosmer said that the bank planned to close the location as of April 17, 2015 and that the property will be placed on the market once it is officially closed.
“I sat down with representatives from M&T Bank this week and talked about the future of the former First National Bank in Milford,” Mayor Bryan Shupe said. “I understand how having two locations within two miles of each other does not make sense financially. Our conversation centered around building a partnership to identify a new commercial interest in the building. I believe it is short-sighted to only believe that a bank can utilize this space.”
Mayor Shupe said that the city planned to work with the bank, local leaders and residents to reimagine what the building could become as part of the downtown revitalization efforts. He hoped that the bank building could increase the number of residents and visitors to the downtown area if it was repurposed properly.
“In my opinion, the location would be ideal for a restaurant or entertainment venue,” Mayor Shupe said. “This property offers a large parking lot for the downtown Milford area along our main gateways of Walnut and Front Street which will be attractive to buyers and also benefit other downtown businesses as the parking becomes available for public use.” Mayor Shupe says that he plans to create a coalition of community leaders, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, Downtown Milford Inc. and business owners to develop a discussion around the landmarks that need to be repurposed in our future, including the Milford Armory, Bayhealth’s Clarke Avenue facility and the former Middle School.
Mayor Shupe said that being personally involved in the downtown Milford community gives him a unique perspective to the subject. His family owns two businesses in the area, Sugar Bee Boutique on Walnut Street and Fur Baby Boutique & Doggie Daycare along Front Street. He says he is not worried that the consolidation of the two branches of M&T Bank will negatively affect the downtown area.
“The attraction of downtown Milford includes the presence of our unique boutiques, bakeries, art galleries, restaurants and our Mispillion Riverwalk,” Mayor Shupe said. “During our community discussions, we will develop and pursue a plan to actively grow our downtown to include more of these attractions that enhance a sense of place that attracts residents and visitors alike.”
The First National Bank opened in 1876 on the location where the current downtown M&T branch is located, founded by Col. Henry Fiddeman. The building was originally built by Abner Dill as a one-story tavern around 1790. After Mr. Dill’s death, Benjamin Washams, a merchant converted the building to a home and store. When Mr. Wadham’s died, the building was the location of Peter F. Causey and Nehemiah Davis’ business interests. After his election, Governor Causey sold the building to Col. Fidderman who lived in one side of the building and operated a business on the other. He added the third floor to incorporate the bank. The location has been the location of the bank since that time.