Franklin Council OKs historic district demolitions for bank

Clarion County Community Bank is planning to build a full-service bank along Elk Street in Franklin.

Franklin City Council on Monday approved a certificate of appropriateness for Clarion County Community Bank to demolish three buildings in the city’s historic district to make room for a new 3,600-square-foot facility with a three-lane drive-through.

The project cost is estimated at $772,000, not counting the purchase price of the properties involved.

Because it did not have a quorum at its February meeting, the city’s Historic and Architectural Review Board made no recommendation to council regarding the certificate request, which was submitted to HARB on Feb. 16 by James L. Kifer, president and CEO of Clarion County Community Bank.

The bank currently operates a loan production office located at 1324 Liberty St.

The certificate of appropriateness authorizes the demolition of three structures located in the 1200 block on lots situated between Elk and Otter streets: the Machault Building, a two-story brick office building at 1272 Elk St., and two residential rental properties on the adjacent lot at 1262 Elk St.

The paperwork on the project indicates the Machault building dates to 1980 and covers 16,340 square feet. The two rental houses, both frame buildings, are said to date to 1940 and to be in various stages of disrepair.

City code enforcement officer Chuck Gibbons said the Machault Building is in “very bad shape.” The two rental properties have been vacant for some time and are also in bad shape, he said.

“They are not safe to be occupied,” he said.

A fourth property – the Film Fest Video building at 1281 Otter St. – is also part of the mix. The one-story block retail building, located to the rear of the Machault Building, measures 4,000 square feet and dates to 1990.

The bank plans to operate out of that building during the demolition and construction phases and then to demolish that building as well. It is not located in the historic district and, therefore, was not included in the request for the certificate of appropriateness.

In his application to HARB, Kifer said he had acquired sales agreements for all of the properties and was applying to the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for approval to open a new branch banking office.

Clarion County Community Bank vice president Michael Fornof, who attended the city council meeting, said the application for the approval to open the branch bank can take up to 60 days, and the demolition cannot commence until the state Department of Banking has made its decision. The 60-day decision period will be up April 16.

In addition to its loan office in Franklin, Clarion County Community Bank operates banking facilities in Clarion, New Bethlehem and Rimersburg.

“There are not many buildings in the historic district I would support tearing down, but I think you found three of them,” Mayor Doug Baker said prior to the vote.

Council unanimously approved the certificate of appropriateness for the demolition.

In his application for the certificate, Kifer said the design of the new bank building will take the historic nature of the neighborhood into account.

When the plans for the new building are finalized, they will have to be submitted to HARB and city council for approval.

A variety of other permits would also be needed for the project; including building, zoning, plumbing, electrical and highway access.