As a banking city, Charlotte still has many bank deserts

Some residents depend on a single check cashing service and ATM at the corner of South Tryon. However, the narrative loudly changes where East meets West.
In a city applauded for having strong ties to international financial markets, parts of Charlotte exist in what’s known as banking desserts.
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 9:11 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In a city applauded for having strong ties to international financial markets, parts of Charlotte exist in what’s known as banking deserts.

“There are no banks close by. Three miles, four miles, the closest bank. I’m guessing,” Peter Yiotisis said.

Yiotisis’ family owns Tatsis restaurant on North Graham Street, and his relatives have operated eateries along the same corridor going back more than 50 years.

“It is a hardship, and I think they could do a great business around here,” Yiotisis added.

For more than seven miles, Graham Street reaches into the city and dead-ends at the city’s NFL stadium.

Despite evidence of potential growth from the newly developed Camp North End, neighborhood banks around the Queen City seem to be out of reach.

“How can you serve the community, if you’re closing branches?” retired Charlotte banking executive Lenny Springs said.

Springs flashes back to the Community Reinvestment Act.

First passed by congress in the 1970′s, the legislation is designed to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

“Community activists, civil rights organizations need to take a look at all of these branch closings,” Springs said.

J’Tanyna Adams of Historic West End is doing just that.

“This whole area to Trade street is slated to be a neighborhood center,” Adams said.

Banks are clearly absent from her Rozzelles Ferry Road neighborhood.

It’s a similar scenario for the eight-mile thoroughfare linking West Boulevard from I 485 to Camden Road.

Some residents depend on a single check cashing service and ATM at the corner of South Tryon. However, the narrative loudly changes where East meets West.

That’s where we found the presence of four banks in less than two miles on East Boulevard.

Pain isn’t solely felt in black and brown communities. Trendy Noda offers a sobering example.

Fifth Third in recent months closed its lobby and ATM.

For David Brooks, the bank was the last stop for customers heading to his sandwich shop which is a cash-only business.

Change is coming in some places.

Adams and Historic West End recently got a game-changing commitment for a new financial services center on Rozzelles Ferry from Uwharrie National Bank.

“In this case with banking, grocery stores and other retail will find the area to be enticing,” Adams said.

Meanwhile, workers back at the restaurant would like to see similar investments.

Several doors down from Tatsis, Bank of America called it quits.

Today, the building is home to a gaming parlor and video arcade.

Analysts say branches aren’t big revenue generators. They cost money. Also, many have come after mergers.

The big one around here lately was the marriage between Sun Trust and BB&T that created Truist.

Between 2017 and 2020, the banks closed 565 branches.

But even when they were closing some -- Truist was opening others.

According to the Committee for Better Banks, there has been a shift in where those new banks are located.

Pre-merger, openings were fairly split between upper-income white neighborhoods and lower-income minority neighborhoods.

But post-merger, more than two-thirds of the openings have been in upper-income white neighborhoods.

Nick Weiner says Truist isn’t living up to the pledge it gave to regulators.

“After the merger, I was at the hearing and there was a lot of pressure to make sure that underserved communities would not be abandoned,” Weiner said. “And they made that commitment. And it doesn’t seem like they’ve lived up to that yet.”

Can some of this be pandemic related to be fair to them?

“Well, the pandemic has certainly had an impact in branch networks and people’s behaviors, but people still go into branches want that access, particularly for small, small businesses and new business development, which is really critically important in low and moderate-income neighborhoods. That development and access to capital and having a branch in your community is key to small business development,” he added.

Truist tells WBTV that new branches are coming this year.

It says they are on track to have 15 new branches in lower-income neighborhoods by the end of this year. They said one will be in the Freedom Drive/Wilkinson Boulevard area of Charlotte.

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