First published in Cedar Valley Business Monthly.
WATERLOO — Walking through the construction site outside her office, sidestepping materials and power cords, Stacey Bentley can barely contain her excitement. She greets the builders by name while giving a tour of what’s completed so far, as well as a mind’s eye of what will be.
“We’ve got the best breakroom with the best view in town,” she said, arms out wide, showing off the skyline of downtown Waterloo.
President and CEO of Community Bank & Trust, Bentley and her staff have worked through the noise and dust since construction began in June 2016 on the building at Commercial Street and Park Avenue.
Talks to spiff up the aging building began in fall 2013, but had to be put on hold for a crucial sidewalk repair on the Park Avenue side of the building. With no supports under the walkway, it had begun to crumble.
“There were tunnels underneath,” Bentley said. “You could go down there and look up and see daylight.”
Shoring up the sidewalk meant relocating a MidAmerican Energy transformer that was homed there, as well as wiring for city streetlights. The tunnel would then need to be supported with beams before being filled in. All to the tune of nearly $400,000.
“We began thinking if we are going to invest almost a half a million dollars, are there other places we should go?” she said.
That put the renovation project on hold for another six to nine months as a consultant was hired to determine if it made sense for CB&T to stay or leave its building in the heart of Waterloo.
“We looked all over,” Bentley said. “Other locations would have been less expensive and easier, but we decided it was important to commit to the community, our employees and our clients. We wanted to stay and support downtown Waterloo.”
Bentley hired architect Bob Zandi with Kirk Gross & Co. to come up with a fresh, modern design complete with all the technological bells and whistles. Local contractors and sub-contractors, with an emphasis on companies who do business with CB&T, were added to the roster to complete the work.
The $4 million project is scheduled for completion in mid-September, Bentley said.
The decades-old building once housed Iowa Public Service, the state’s former utility company. The lack of natural light and office space were among the many issues the renovation will address.
Walls were pushed out 6 feet on the first floor, and space added on the second floor created more office room and allowed for the construction of a large atrium over the first-floor waiting area. Plans initially called for Bentley’s office to be on the second floor. She vetoed that idea.
“I want to be down with the clients. That is really important to me,” she said. Her office will now be on an outer corner of the first floor, allowing her to interact with bank customers.
The entrance to the bank has been moved from Commercial Street to the north side parking lot. A new glass-enclosed, two-story entrance was built, which required removing a portion of the second floor. A glass handrail bridge spans across the vestibule entrance lets in loads of natural light. A large wall inside the entrance is begging for art.
“Wouldn’t it be neat to feature the work of Iowa artists there?” Bentley said.
A grand staircase punctuates the new lobby, and a glass handrail rings the central atrium space, allowing employees and customers complete sight lines between floors. A hospitality bar and large-screen TV will keep clients comfortable while they wait for bank services.
Conference rooms with state-of-the-art technology have been built, and comfortable, informal collaboration centers on both floors allow for more casual discussions with clients. The wealth management department will take a space on the second floor.
Teller operations will look different, too. All tasks can be completed within the teller stations.
“Before, tellers had to take cash through the lobby each night. The cash vault is now in the station,” Bentley said.
Drive-up windows will features state-of-the-art video screens for customer interaction that used to take place through a window.
All new furniture will replace the old, which was donated to more than 20 local non-profit agencies. One more round of donations will take place when the renovation is complete.
In August, the bank celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Cedar Valley. The renovation is the perfect celebration of that milestone.
“Our goal was to stay and invest in downtown Waterloo. I think we’re meeting that. I’m very happy with what we’re doing,” Bentley said.