Commonwealth Bank Plans Oakes Field Renovations, Expansion

Wednesday 07th, August 2013 / 23:33 Published by

Commonwealth Bank officially signed contracts with architects, engineers and contractors today for the renovation and expansion of its Oakes Field branch in a brief ceremony that one participant called a ‘welcome micro-boost for the local economy.”

“We are very pleased to announce this morning that all the key contractors are in place and work has commenced on our Oakes Field branch,” said Commonwealth Bank President Ian A. Jennings. The $2.1 million in contracts includes approximately $500,000 in repairs following a fire that an eyewitness reported broke out after the building was struck by lightning with flames leaping through the roof in the midst of an historic rain storm the night of May 21.

No one was injured in the blaze.

“There is no such thing as a good time for a bad event,” said Mr. Jennings, explaining that the request for bids on the planned expansion had gone out one week before the fire that forced it to relocate to temporary space, so the Bank was able to quickly amend the process to include necessary repair work.

“Oakes Field had been our fastest growing branch for many years. If you look at the traffic around that roundabout, you can understand. So, we are very excited about signing this contract and moving forward with the repairs and expansion and doing so on a very aggressive schedule.”

Prior to the fire that forced it to relocate to temporary space, the publicly-held bank with more 550 employees and some 6,000-plus shareholders had said the expansion of the busy branch across from The College of The Bahamas would be its sole capital improvement project for the fiscal year. When it had to move, it did so in record time, re-opening in the nearby Burns House building on JFK Boulevard just one week after the roof and banking hall were damaged.

Preliminary work clearing out the damaged areas and preparing the site for renovation and construction is underway with contractor, CGT Contractors and Developers Limited, “on a very aggressive schedule” to open the branch by mid-November with all works completed by early 2014. At this morning’s signing at bank headquarters, The Plaza, Mackey Street, CGT Contractor President Larry Treco said the company would take extra steps to meet the trust the bank placed in them, noting it was the first time they had won a contract from Commonwealth Bank. The company is working overtime and expects to have between 30 and 40 “direct hires” on the job in addition to subcontractors including plumbers, electricians, mechanical engineers, quantity surveyors and others.

When completed, the expansion will enlarge the building by 40%, adding 2,300 square feet, improving the lobby and customer seating areas by moving office space to new sections, said Mr. Jennings, to enhance the in-branch customer experience. Once the renovations are completed, the branch will continue to offer ABM service with two walk up ABMs. The bank will have the traditional Commonwealth Bank appearance with broad white Bermuda hip roof, clean lines and marble interior. The architect for the project is Kenneth Lam & Associates, and the Quantity Surveyors are Construction Cost Engineers.

In the meantime, customers using the temporary location have said they appreciated the quick move and the ease of parking, according to Branch Manager Marcus Cleare.

“Many customers have expressed that the new location is more convenient and that parking is easier at peak periods of the day,” Cleare had said earlier. “During our initial opening, we had several days of giveaways, and we continue to serve  refreshments on a daily basis. Despite the unfortunate events at our Oakes Field location, Commonwealth Bank remains dedicated to serving their financial needs. As the leader in Personal Banking Services, we are always eager to lend a hand to our valuable customers in any way we can.”

The largest all-Bahamian bank, Commonwealth Bank has more than $1.4 billion in assets and operates branches in Abaco, Grand Bahama and New Providence.

By Diane Phillips and Associates

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