D.L. Evans Bank buys Alexander Building

D.L Evans is the new owner of the 1924 Alexander Building. Photo by Teya Vitu.
D.L Evans Bank is the new owner of the 1924 Alexander Building. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Burley-based D.L. Evans Bank has bought the historic Alexander Building at the corner of 9th and Main streets in downtown Boise that has stood empty for a year since Zions Bank moved out.

The sale, for an undisclosed amount, closed Jan. 18 and D.L. Evans plans to move into the 1924 Second Renaissance Revival Style structure with the white terra cotta veneer façade in June. It won’t be a distant move: D.L Evans has had its downtown branch just one block away at 9th and Idaho streets since 2008.

But the move into the Alexander building will upgrade D.L. Evans’s downtown presence from a branch with a couple of corporate offices to a Treasure Valley headquarters, said John V. Evans III, the bank’s Boise-based executive vice president.

“As a bank expanding in the Treasure Valley, we recognize the need for more space,” Evans said.

The Alexander building office will also include expanded commercial lending.

D.L. Evans has 12 of its 26 branches in the Treasure Valley with a 27th branch scheduled to open in Fruitland in April. Ingrained in southern Idaho since its founding in Albion in 1904, D.L. Evans did not arrive in Boise until opening its State Street branch in 2000.

The bank anticipates adding one more branch statewide each year, Evans said.

John V. Evans III
John V. Evans III

D.L. Evans is the largest bank headquartered in Idaho, with $1.2 billion in assets as of the end of 2014. The bank ranked seventh among all banks in both the Boise market and in the state of Idaho in assets in the middle of 2014, based on Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data that includes its 2014 acquisition of Idaho Banking Co. with its four branches.

The Alexander Building purchase from a group led by Bob Angell also takes D.L. Evans from leasing space to ownership. The move expands the bank from a 5,500-square foot space to roughly 20,000 feet on three floors, though D.L. Evans for now plans to occupy only the 8,000-square-foot ground floor. It might lease out the upper floors.

D.L Evans acquired an existing bank space with all the bank fittings in place. Zions Bank leased the Alexander Building from June 2001 until moving into the Eighth & Main tower in January 2014.

“We’re going to do a small remodel, that’s all, touch it up, update the teller line. Other than that, it’s ready to go,” Evans said.

D.L. Evans did not consider the Alexander Building immediately upon Zions departure. The idea didn’t surface until about April 2014 as the Evans family (three generations of Evans lead the bank) considered renewing the lease that was expiring in April 2015.

“We weren’t looking at moving at all,” Evans said. “But when we started to run the numbers, it cost as much to lease 5,500 square feet as it does to own 20,000 square feet.”

The Alexander Building initially was under contract to someone else. D.L. Evans Bank started discussions with the owners around September, Evans said.

The Alexander Building was built in 1924 as Alexander’s Men’s Store.

The Evans family of bankers and the Alexander Building both have connections to former Idaho governors. John V. Evans Sr. was governor from 1977 to 1987 and afterwards became the bank’s president. Moses Alexander was a Boise mayor who served as governor from 1915 to 1919 and afterwards built the Alexander Building. The renovation of the by-then dilapidated Alexander was the first urban renewal project spearheaded by Dirk Kempthorne, another former Boise mayor and Idaho governor.

Alexander Building ground floor tenants

1924-1975: Alexander’s Men’s Store, men’s clothing, forced to move out as the Boise Redevelopment Agency (today’s Capital City Development Corp.) acquired the building to demolish it for the downtown mall that was never built. The wrecking ball ultimately stopped on the other side of Main Street.

1987-2001: Lee Read Jewelry and Cricket Clothing, a woman’s clothing store.

2001- January 2014: Zions Bank

2014-now: vacant

Est. June 2015- : D.L. Evans Bank


Brad Iverson-Long contributed to this article.

Who wants vacant bank buildings? Probably not a bank

Kelly Vasquez and Ashley Cadwell from McDowells Specialty Repairs check out the bank building that the upholstery company purchased. Photo by Pete Grady
Kelly Vasquez and Ashley Cadwell from McDowells Specialty Repairs check out the bank building that the upholstery company purchased. Photo by Pete Grady

About a half dozen vacant bank buildings dot the Boise landscape. Unlike the typical retail, office or even restaurant structure, where the rules of supply and demand briskly move the market, empty bank buildings present a problem for commercial real estate agents.

Bank buildings don’t exactly lend themselves to any other purpose than the friendly fortress environment that banks espouse. And these days, with mobile technology making it easier to bank from anywhere, even banks have little interest in traditional vacant bank spaces.

“Between scanning and online technology, there is no need for brick-and-mortar branches,” said Rob Perez, Idaho market president of Northwest Bank.

Perez predicts most, if not all, of Boise’s vacant bank buildings will not be filled by banks. And thus vacant banks sit on the market for months and years until someone with imagination comes along.

McDowells Specialty Repairs, an auto and home upholstery shop, recently picked up the former Home Federal Bank building at 10443 Fairview Ave. The obvious question: What does McDowells plan to do with the safe?

“The vault is going to be a think tank, an office area, ground zero for McDowells,” said Ashley Cadwell, project coordinator for McDowells’ expansion to the bank building.

McDowells specializes in home and car upholstery and furniture, anything cosmetic on the car interior and exterior. The bank-specific design of the building didn’t concern McDowells one way or the other. The most important thing was that the property has many car dealerships nearby.

“The main thing was the location,” Cadwell said. “This opens us up to be more convenient to the Eagle side of town.”

McDowells will continue to do upholstery at its Cole Road location, while woodwork will move to the bank, though everything may eventually move to the bank.

A vacant Bank of the Cascades sits at Vista and Cassia. Photo by Teya Vitu.
A vacant Bank of the Cascades sits at Vista and Cassia. Photo by Teya Vitu.

“The building, as is, will suit a lot of our needs,” Cadwell said. ”We’re going to add on. We’re going to enclose the drive-thru. That will be the showroom. The bank space will be the workshop.”

Mike Erkmann, an agent at Mark Bottles Real Estate, had the Home Federal listed for six months before McDowells came to him. In that time, a coffee shop took a look as did a gold and silver shop and a used car lot. This bank property had an extra challenge that turned away potential buyers: somebody else owns the land under the building.

“Most of the time it was because of the ground lease situation,” Erkmann said. “It was too complicated.”

Vacant banks on the market include a former Bank of the Cascades at Vista and Cassia; a former Mountain West Bank on West State Street near Glenwood; a one-time Washington Federal  at 10150 W. Fairview (near the McDowells); a former Key Bank at Cole and Ustick and two bank vacancies in larger buildings: the Zions Bank at 890 W. Main that emptied when Zions moved next door in February into the Eighth and Main tower and the Syringa Bank space at One Capital Center, 999 W. Main, that emptied when the Idaho Department of Finance shut the bank down in January.

Debbie Martin, principal and founder of DK Commercial, is wrestling with the Vista/Cassia and Cole/Ustick properties.

“I have two of them that I’m trying to figure out what to do with,” Martin said. “They are older locations. It’s hard to find a bank to backfill that.”

She said a developer initially scouted the Vista/Cassia location with the thought of demolishing the bank for a Starbucks. The Seattle coffee company ultimately chose to build directly across the street in the Vista Village shopping center.

With a little imagination, Martin believes either location could be converted for a fast-food place or another restaurant, especially the one at Ustick and Cole. Banks and fast-food do have one thing in common: a drive-thru culture.

In the past, some bank buildings have been repurposed, like the Mattress Firm on Milwaukee Street, which used to be a US Bank branch, and the Starbucks on Franklin Road that was converted from a bank branch years ago.

The former Boise City National Bank building, built in 1891, still bears the name of the bank even though Boise City National shut down in 1932 during the Depression. First Security Bank occupied the building many years, followed by Idaho Power Company and JR Simplot Co. Fork restaurant has filled the street level space since 2011.

A Home Federal on Fairview became a gun retailer, and a bank building at the former Parkcenter Mall was torn down to make space for a playground for Sage International School, which now occupies the mall.

Buying a bank building for the property just to tear it down to build something else is not an attractive option.

“It’s an expensive piece of dirt to tear the building down,” Martin said.

Then again, modern America is all about tearing down buildings every generation or two.

“A lot of real estate at the end of its life cycle gets destroyed and something appropriate goes up,” said Scott Roark, an assistant professor of finance at Boise State University. “Technology changes make some spaces obsolete. Bank branches are going away. What always happens with real estate when existing uses become obsolete, you look for the best reuse.”

Bank branches of the old days, that is, as recently as the 2000s and 1990s, typically measured about 3,000 square feet. Banks generally need far less space now. Supermarket branches are a good example.

“With online and mobile banking, when people can do stuff on the phone, there is less of a need for traditional bank branches,” Roark said. ” You don’t need as many tellers.”

Banks, however, rarely buy buildings; they typically lease. Perez calculated Bank of the Cascades likely paid about $22 per square foot on the Vista/Cassia property, but the building would probably draw only $15 per square foot from another tenant – if one steps forward.

“It kind of conspires to be a bad economic deal for current owners,” Roark said. “You’re trying to make the best of a bad situation if you own that space.”