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By Tim Innes
With a loud crash, the wall separating two long-vacant storefronts just east of Whole Foods Market came tumbling down late last month, a major step in transforming the space into a Circle Bank office.
The project got the green light Dec. 3 when the Planning Commission voted unanimously to grant Circle's request for a conditional use permit to open its first San Francisco branch, at 3936-38 24th Street. The Novato-based community bank already has four offices in the North Bay.
In addition to knocking down the wall between the former Aveda and Noe Valley Video stores, workers will update electrical and mechanical systems and construct a vault, conference room, computer room, offices, and kitchen. Developer Joe Cassidy said he expects the job to take about 60 days.
Circle hopes to open its doors in late March, followed by a grand opening celebration in mid-April.
The branch will entice customers with a coffee bar and freshly baked cookies, a play area for children, stroller parking, and a place for pets to curl up while their owners conduct business. Plus, it will be open seven days a week.
Kim Kaselionis, the bank's president and CEO, said the branch will have five or six staffers, all new hires and residents of San Francisco. "We will be recruiting from the neighborhood,'' she said.
Kaselionis said Circle, which specializes in small-business, multifamily-housing, and TIC (tenants-in-common) lending, will sponsor Small Business Administration seminars to help would-be business owners get started and existing businesses grow.
She said Circle aims to be involved in the community and has already partnered with an Alvarado Elementary School PTA project and signed on as a sponsor of the annual neighborhood Easter egg hunt. Once the branch opens, nonprofit and community groups will be able to use the conference room, she added.