Chemical Bank to move headquarters to Detroit, bringing 500-plus employees

August 7, 2018

 

The largest Michigan-based bank is moving its headquarters to Michigan's largest city.

 

In one of the biggest corporate recruitment victories for the city in recent memory, Chemical Bank (NASDAQ: CHFC), currently based in Midland, plans to move more than 500 executives and other employees into a new high-rise at Woodward Avenue and Elizabeth Street in downtown Detroit. The building would be near the Ilitch family's new Little Caesars Global Resource Center.

 

The plan calls for completion of the 20-story 250,000-square-foot building within the next 2 1/2 years, with construction beginning by the second quarter next year.

 

The move was announced Wednesday morning by senior company leaders, Mayor Mike Duggan and others at the site at 2047 Woodward Ave.

 

"I never thought I'd see the day that we would have an announcement that a 20-story headquarters building, the corporate headquarters of a major regional bank, Chemical, would be moving with 500 jobs right here to the city of Detroit," Duggan said during the announcement event.

 

Also Wednesday, the city said it selected Chemical Bank as its new primary banking partner, along with First Independence Bank and Fifth Third Bank, in part because of their strong commitments to Detroit.

 

"In 1985, I began the practice of law just a few short blocks from here, never imaging the historic comeback Detroit would be enjoying in 2018," Gary Torgow, chairman of Chemical Bank, said at the Wednesday event. "This is a great moment for our company."

 

In an interview, Torgow said the building's first seven floors are expected to be retail and parking space; while at least six floors above that are slated to be Chemical Bank offices; and the remaining seven floors have uses that have yet to be determined, but could be more office and/or luxury condominium space.

 

The move to Detroit is intended to help Chemical Bank, which absorbed Troy-based Talmer Bancorp Inc. in 2016, grow in metro Detroit and add to its strength in outstate Michigan.

 

Detroit has not had a major bank headquarters since Comerica Inc. moved its home base to Dallas more than a decade ago.

 

The news comes about a month after another corporate giant, automotive supplier Adient plc, said it was scrapping its plan to move its headquarters to the Marquette Building on Congress Street. Chemical Bank also becomes the latest financial institution to plant a major flag in the city, following Fifth Third Bank of Eastern Michigan, among others.

 

Downtown's skyline would also be reconfigured with another high-rise, joining several that billionaire Dan Gilbert plan and others that the Ilitch family's Olympia Development of Michigan have pondered but not yet formally announced.

 

The 0.2-acre property at 2047 Woodward Ave. is owned by 28 Associates LLC, an entity registered to Eli Halpern, general counsel to Detroit-based real estate company Sterling Group, which is run by Torgow.

 

A building immediately to the west, which sits on 0.22 acres of property at 25 W. Elizabeth St., is expected to demolished to make way for the new high-rise. It is also owned by 28 Associates.

The move is not expected to reduce the bank's workforce in its current Midland headquarters.

"We will be keeping our full workforce there," Torgow said. "There will be no diminution of people in Midland and, for that matter, in almost every part of our banking areas."

 

The bank, the seventh-largest in the state overall with $11.8 billion in deposits in the region as of June 2017, says it has $20.3 billion in total assets. That's up from $18.8 billion a year ago and $19.8 billion at the end of the first quarter. It has 3,300 employees and 1 million customers.

 

"Detroit is the financial hub for advanced manufacturing and mobility as well as a growing nexus for young entrepreneurs looking to leverage the city's rich history of innovation and hard work, and Chemical Bank is excited to help them build our economy and invest in Michigan's future," Thomas Shafer, president and CEO of Chemical Bank, said in a news release. "With our legacy markets as our foundation, Chemical Bank's continued expansion into the Detroit market establishes us as a leading financial institution in the Midwest."

The move is part of an effort to increase the bank's market share in the Detroit area, Shafer and Torgow said.

They said there are about $150 billion in insured deposits in the region, and Chemical Bank has only about 3 percent of that. They anticipate a substantial increase in that market share as a result of moving the headquarters to Detroit and expanding its presence here.

 

There are about 100 Chemical Bank workers in the 333 W. Fort St. office building, which is owned by Torgow's Sterling Group. Those workers are expected to move into the new high-rise once it's completed; other workers who will populate the building are expected to be made up of those coming from other Southeast Michigan locations as well as new hires.

 

No cheap undertaking
 

Torgow said discussions about the move began within the past five months, with the board briefed on the matter in the past four months. The board has approved moving the headquarters.

 

It won't be a cheap undertaking — certainly north of $50 million for new construction of an office tower that size — but the bank officials said the "benefits far outweigh the cost" in terms of talent recruitment, amenities, location and opportunities for new business. 

 

Detroit-based Neumann/Smith Architecture is designing the project; a developer, general contractor and construction manager have not yet been selected. 

 

Chemical Bank reported $69 million in net income in the second quarter. It had $71.6 million in the first quarter, and $52 million in the second quarter of last year. 

 

Talmer acquisition
 

Last year, a leadership change brought David Provost, former president and CEO of Troy-based Talmer Bancorp, and Shafer, former president of Talmer Bank & Trust and COO of its holding company, into the leadership roles at Chemical Bank. 

 

Chemical Financial bought Talmer Bancorp in August 2016 in a $1.7 billion deal allowing it to pursue acquisitions in larger urban markets that former Chemical management tended to avoid.

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