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First Financial Bank will expand, move to Anthony Wayne Building

Upscale restaurant also expected, filling downtown building's commercial space

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 10:07 am

For the first time in decades, there will be a bank in the old Anthony Wayne Building downtown.

But a new tenant means the building will also have a new name: First Financial Center at the Anthony Wayne Building.

Cincinnati-based First Financial bank, which opened its first Fort Wayne location late last year in the former Merrill Lynch Building at 130 W. Main St., was expected to announce today that it would shift downtown operations to the 203 E. Berry St. building now being converted into condominiums. Anthony Wayne Bank ceased to exist after its merger with Summit Bank in 1987.

First Financial has offered commercial and mortgage services for the past seven months and “has been very well received by the community,” local Market President Rob Slusser said. By the end of the year, however, the bank will offer a full line of services, requiring a ground-floor office and the entire sixth floor.

First Financial currently employs about 15 people in Fort Wayne, but will add that many in commercial and mortgage and more in consumer banking, Slusser said. First Financial will occupy a total of 9,700 square feet under its long-term lease with RCI. Drive-through and ATM service will be available.

John Nichols, a partner in RCI Development, said naming rights and signage are being negotiated with the bank and RediMed, which is planning a clinic in the building. An upscale restaurant is also expected to be added soon, claiming the last of the building's commercial space, Nichols said.

As The News-Sentinel first reported, the 150-year-old First Financial had been considering expansion into Fort Wayne for several months but acted after hiring 11 former employees of Tower Bank, which was purchased by Old National Bank in 2013. First Financial is also exploring additional sites in Fort Wayne.

“It's exciting to be part of the redevelopment of this building. Its central location means we can be anywhere (in town) in 25 minutes,” Slusser said.

First Financial officials said at the time of their arrival that they viewed the former Merrill Lynch building as a temporary home. That building's owner, Kent Litchin, said the building remains available for lease, adding that the bank fulfilled the terms of its contract.

First Financial has about $6.3 billion in assets, with 1,300 employees at 110 facilities in three states.