GTE Federal Credit Union Opens Branch In Midtown

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has made good on his promise to bring a lending institution to one of the poorer sections of the city.

The new GTE Federal Credit Union branch opened recently at 2190 18th Ave. S., and Baker -- who also came through on a pledge to bring a supermarket, library and post office to the area -- was the first person to make a deposit.

The 3,500-square-foot brick building in the city's Midtown district has three drive-through lanes and a drive-up ATM. It is the second branch in St. Petersburg.

The city lured the credit union by selling it the parcel for the new branch for only a dollar. St. Petersburg bought that land and adjoining lots more than 10 years ago for about $1 million. In exchange for getting the discounted land, the credit union agreed to keep the branch open for 50 years. If it leaves before then, it owes the city a financial penalty. The city also did $225,000 in sidewalk improvements in the area.

GTE Federal stepped in after another developer's plans for a gas station and fast-food restaurant did not work out, said Mike Psarakis, the city's senior real estate coordinator.

The grand opening brings the credit union closer to its customers and its roots. About 17,000 of the credit union's 200,000 members live in South St. Petersburg. Many of them are former employees of the former Peninsular Telephone Co., which the credit union served while the company was in operation.

And there is more than history, bricks and mortar in this partnership. GTE Federal is working with St. Petersburg on a financial literacy program for residents called Bank on St. Pete. The program teaches residents how to save money and how to spot predatory lending practices.

Tampa-based GTE Federal is one of the largest locally owned financial institutions in the Tampa Bay area, with more than $1.8 billion in assets.

Writer: Dave Szymanski
Source: Mike Psarakis, City of St. Petersburg
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