PUBLISHED: 4:14 PM on Wednesday, October 31, 2007
KeyBank's historic Behrends Branch in Juneau is 'under wraps' as nine-month remodel progresses
KeyBank has begun a nine-month remodeling project that will restore the elegant, pillared façade of its vintage branch while installing new technologies that will enhance customers' banking experience. The bank at 234 Seward St., constructed in 1914 for B. M.Behrends Bank, is considered to be one of downtown Juneau's historic buildings and is one block from the Alaska State Capitol.

According to Brian Nerland, president of KeyBank Alaska, the updated Behrends branch will present new features inside and out.

Outside, the building will be weatherproofed. That means a new energy-efficient roofing system and a new exterior finish - stucco is being upgraded with a new, much more durable composite that presents the look of stucco.

The whole building will be repainted in a muted tone, discreet signage will be installed, and new landscaping will freshen the corner at Second and Main Streets.

Above the front door, the original B.M. Behrends Bank inscription will remain in place.

Inside, customers will be entertained and informed by large flat-screen video monitors behind the tellers.

Photos of historic Juneau will grace the walls. New glass-walled, enclosed offices will ensure customer privacy and new furniture and lighting will lend style and functionality. The original vault, dating back to the 1880s, will remain in use.

The bank was built by Bernard M. Behrends in 1914 to house the banking operation that he established in 1891. Prior to building at the current location, Behrends Bank operated across the street under the same roof as B.M. Behrends Mercantile Company.

Key has operated at this location since it acquired the assets of B.M. Behrends Bank in 1989. This is the second major remodel that KeyBank has undertaken.

"The best part of this renovation," said KeyBank Sr. Vice President and business banker Win Gruening, "is that we get the benefits of a new bank without disturbing the building's historic charm and integrity. We're doing our part to preserve part of downtown Juneau's history." Gruening has worked in the Behrends branch since 1980.

According to Nerland, the Behrends branch upgrades involve more than paint and plants.

Enhancements will include new technology and training that will enable tellers and other branch employees to deliver even more timely, relevant services.

"Our tellers requested tools that would allow them to be even faster and more efficient," Nerland said. That feedback led to development of new technology that KeyBank has named Teller21. At each teller window, a small screen will let customers monitor transactions. Tellers will use the technology to view all client account records swiftly as they answer questions, make account adjustments and offer real-time financial counsel.

The Behrends branch update reflects the continued importance of bank branches to consumers and businesses.

"As newer channels - such as ATMs and online banking - have grown in popularity," said Denise Longo, KeyBank's District Retail Leader in Alaska, "some predicted the decline of the bank branch.

However, our clients tell us that they prefer a mix of channels so that they have the flexibility to conduct their banking business when, where and how it is most convenient for them."

Renovations will be undertaken in two phases. Plastic will wrap much of the building until the exterior work is done in late November. Interior upgrades will begin in December, with project completion expected by summer 2008.

The bank will remain in full operation throughout the remodel.

The 12,378-square-foot branch building offers a walk-up ATM and houses a variety of banking services that include traditional retail banking, investment services, private banking, and small business banking.

KeyCorp, one of the nation's largest bank-based financial services companies, has assets of approximately $97 billion.

Key companies provide investment management, retail and commercial banking, consumer finance, and investment banking products and services to individuals and companies throughout the United States and, for certain businesses, internationally.