First Niagara plans new headquarters near Harriman site

First Niagara Bank plans to make a big deposit in the city: a regional headquarters and market cente
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First Niagara Bank plans to make a big deposit in the city: a regional headquarters and market center that will employ 200.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings announced Friday that the Lockport-based First Niagara is consolidating several business operations scattered throughout the Capital Region.

It is developing a regional headquarters in a two-story, 35,000-square-foot building at 555 Patroon Creek Blvd., near the Harriman State Office Campus.

BBL Construction will start building that facility in early April and First Niagara could move into it by October.

The move should concentrate First Niagara’s fragmented northeastern New York network under one roof. It established most of that network by acquiring Troy Savings Bank in 2003 and Hudson River Bank in 2005.

About three-quarters of the 200 workers First Niagara is sending to Patroon Creek Boulevard will come from its offices spread over three floors at 18 Corporate Woods Blvd. in Albany.

“We’re taking every step possible to elevate our profile,” said First Niagara Eastern New York Regional President Thomas Amell.

First Niagara is a subsidiary of First Niagara Financial Group, which has 51 branches in northeastern New York and 117 throughout upstate.

It is joining the growing ranks of banks that have recently established headquarters in Albany to raise their profile.

Capital Bank & Trust Company last year relocated its corporate headquarters from Colonie to Western Avenue, about a half mile from the Patroon Creek site.

The Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Bank also recently established regional headquarters in downtown Albany.

In February 2007, KeyBank also moved 25 wealth management employees from the Corporate Woods Office Park to its regional headquarters in downtown Albany.

First Niagara is relocating its insurance, investment, commercial lending and corporate and business banking arms into the Patroon Creek facility, which Columbia Development Companies will lease to the bank. The headquarters will also feature a small retail branch.

Amell said the state’s plan to convert the Harriman campus into a technology park made the Patroon Creek site especially appealing.

“We fell in love with the location very quickly,” he said.

The development of the Albany headquarters continues First Niagara’s long-running consolidation efforts. The bank in April announced the elimination of 100 jobs statewide and the consolidation of two Capital Region branches.

In 2006, it relocated a Hudson call center to its Lockport corporate headquarters.

In December, it also sold five branches on the fringes of the Capital Region to Legacy Banks in Pittsfield.

However, the worst of First Niagara’s restructuring was completed by July.

First Niagara President and Chief Executive Officer John Koelmel then said he was “ready to crank up the offense.”

First Niagara last week acquired Great Lakes Bancorp, the Buffalo parent of the 16-branch Greater Buffalo Savings Bank.

The company ended 2007 with a net income of $85.09 million, down 8.5 percent from a year earlier.

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