Bank on It: 999 Grant Ave. Prepares for Prime Time

Circle Bank / Umpqua Bank pulls the curtain aside to great fanfare at new downtown Novato building.

Hey, Umpqua Bank: Kim Kaselionis is playfully making that gesture with two extended fingers — the one where she makes a peace sign, points them at her own eyes and then points them at you.

Thursday marked the official debut of the 999 Grant Avenue building in downtown Novato, a retail/bank/restaurant complex that was to become headquarters of Kaselionis' baby, Circle Bank, but soon will become the local command post for Umpqua, which is finalizing the purchase of Circle Bank.

"We are confident that our successors are cut from a very similar cloth and will slip into our shoes in very short order," she said before about 150 people, "but if they don't, come see me and I will have a talk with them."

She said it in good humor while standing in first floor of 999 Grant, at the southeast corner of Grant Avenue and Redwood Boulevard, approximately where a showcase-grade restaurant will be placed next year. The nearly 20,000-square-foot building, designed by Crome Architecture of San Rafael and erected by Petaluma's Devcon Construction, also will be home to a second smaller eatery, a small branch of Umpqua and a larger administrative office area for Umpqua's regional staff.

The plan is for the businesses to open pretty much at the same time next summer or fall, with about 10,000 square feet available for lease. Until then, Umpqua will take over Circle's location at 1400 Grant Ave., about a half mile to the west.

More than 10 years ago, Kaselionis made a bid to purchase the land at 999 Grant on which a long-closed office building sat vacant. The former savings and loan building was constructed in 1968 and later became law offices and other businesses before slowly turning into the business district's white elephant. Kaselionis' effort to buy the place, empty since 1999, fell through, but she persevered and prevailed when Circle Bank purchased the old 9,000-square-foot building when the previous owner, Catlin Properties, declared bankruptcy in 2010. 

(For videos of the first stages of demolition at 999 Grant, click here.)

After being congratulated Thursday by Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold and Novato Mayor Denise Athas, Kaselionis begged for forgiveness when it came time to thank everyone involved in the new building's construction. She turned melancholy for a minute as she talking about the strange timing of the bank sale and the 999 Grant debut.

"As soon as next week, we will cease to exist," she said of Circle Bank. "This announcement is a really bittersweet moment for us, but nonetheless I'm proud. ... It took over a decade of support, a lot of politicking, a lot of handshaking, pleading. But we have been able to transform the blight of this corner into an outstanding marvel.

"While 10 years is a long time to be after something, I would do it again in a heartbeat because Novato deserves no less."

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Kevin November 09, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Any word on the restaurant?
Brent Ainsworth November 09, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Nope, not yet. At least not on the record. The commercial real estate firm that's handling it has talked to a few people who seem seriously interested. Nothing will be announced until a lease is signed (which makes a ton of sense).
Bill November 10, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I planned to go to the ceremony, but couldn't find a place to park. So I drove to VOaks and did some shopping. Was going to go to RPark to shop, but will save that for another day.
T.Sprocket November 10, 2012 at 03:04 AM
I accidentally posted this under another Patch article about downtown. I copied and pasted it here too. Sorry! :) Anyone have any answers to this? Has anyone figured out where the 50 bank employees will park? What about the customers that will visit the bank? I have to think they will be getting 30-50 people per hour making desposits and signing loan docs. What about the planned restaurants? It seems to be a large space. Where will those employees park and what about the customers for this big restaurant space? This building is right across from the theatre. Is there a plan for where those people will park if that opens? Isn't it like 300 seats? Man! Parking is brutal down there already. Does anyone have a plan where all of these people will park their cars? Quick math indicates a minimum of 100 cars at any given time with the theatre far more. Does anyone know how this will work?
Brent Ainsworth November 12, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I added two vintage photos of the old 999 Grant Building courtesy of Mike Read from the Novato Historical Guild. Thanks, Mike!


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