US Bank enraged senior citizens living at Beth-Anne Residence, citizens of North Austin, and elected officials for its unilateral decision to close its branch in the professional office building at 4909 West Division Street. The branch is located adjacent to the Beth-Anne senior residential apartments and assisted care facility. Many of the residents do not have cars or are handicapped, restricting their ability to travel and conduct their banking. The US Bank branch is also convenient for residents of the surrounding neighborhood.
US Bank announced there is insufficient business at the branch to warrant keeping it open. The branch is slated to close November 16. The closest US Bank branches are located at Madison Street & Austin Boulevard and North Avenue & Austin, over a mile away from the Division Street branch.
A loud demonstration at the branch was held October 13, organized by Northwest Austin Council, local clergy, Alderman Emma Mitts, and Beth-Anne seniors. Alderman Mitts complained that US Bank officials were disrespecting her and her constituents by refusing to return her calls to discuss the matter.
A Beth-Anne resident waved a stack of petitions with signatures she collected protesting the bank closure. Former newspaper publisher and civil rights activist Chuck Harris quoted W.E.B. DuBois and declared US Bank’s action to be “pure and simply racist!”
Stephen Robinson, Executive Director of Northwest Austin Council, and Alderman Emma Mitts urged US Bank customers to close their accounts. “If they are abandoning us, we will abandon them,” Mitts declared.
Several years ago, an official of US Bank told THE VOICE Newspapers that US Bank never wanted branches in Chicago’s West Side African American Austin community, but that they built the branch at Madison & Laramie only to win approval from banking regulators to open a US Bank facility in the Loop.
US Bank also earned the wrath of Austin leaders when Park National Bank was closed and given to US Bank, which had no history of serving urban and minority communities. US Bank refuses to advertise its services in local African American newspapers.
State Representative La Shawn K. Ford tells THE VOICE Newspapers that the credit union with an office in the Division Street building has signed a lease for the US Bank space. However, the credit union has sporadic hours, also refuses to advertise its services, and community leaders say it is too small and limited to effectively replace a real bank.