Erie Federal Credit Union project at Glenwood School progresses

Dec 18, 2015 | Posted in Glenwood Project

December 11, 2015 12:34 PM


ERIE, Pa. -- Work will begin soon to convert the former Glenwood Elementary School on Peach Street into headquarters and a branch for the Erie Federal Credit Union.

A groundbreaking will be held Dec. 18. The building, which the credit union purchased in 2012, will be renovated rather than razed. With 14 months of work to start in January, customers could walk into the new facility in 2017.

"It's taken us three years because we wanted to get it right," said Brian Waugaman, Erie FCU chief executive, said.

He said officials didn't want to rush decisions like how to get traffic and people in and out.

A change in design firms and a couple of mergers also have taken place since Erie FCU bought the building.

Erie FCU was the only bidder in December 2012 for the 1.8-acre property with the 50,000-square-foot building. Glenwood School operated there from 1951 until it was closed by the Erie School District in June 2012. Erie FCU bid $1.17 million for the site.

Waugaman said the original design firm was focused on razing the Glenwood building. But he said the old school has a lot of years left in it.

"The structure is solid," Brian Warzynak, the credit union's chief technology officer, said. "They built things in the '50s to last."

Talk turned to renovations, and Erie FCU selected Erie-based Bostwick Design Partnership and Perry Construction for building design and construction management.

Waugaman said credit union leaders wanted the economic benefits of the work to stay in Erie County.

"Because investing in Erie is critical, we are extremely proud of the fact that this project will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy by employing local architects, contractors and tradesmen," he said.

An addition to the back of the school will be removed for parking, Waugaman said. That will reduce the square footage to 41,000, with about 3,000 on the southern end of the L-shaped building devoted to the full-service branch, Erie FCU's 11th. The rest will house the operations center plus a multipurpose room for community partners.

The community room could be used for voting like the school once was, Waugaman said. Glenwood was a polling place for voters in Erie's 5th Ward.

Erie FCU's current headquarters at 1959 E. 36th St. will be closed and sold, Waugaman said.

Fred Tonty, the credit union's chief financial officer, said the new headquarters will be in the heart of Erie and offer at least quadruple the space of the current building.

Waugaman said the Glenwood operations center will have a flexible floor plan to allow for future growth of the credit union, which has 52,400 members. Additional staff will be needed at the new facility, but the number hasn't been determined, officials said.

Original estimates had completion of an $8 million project occurring in 2014. Waugaman said officials wanted to take time to "get it right" when it came to details like the Glenwood branch entrance. Instead of on the Peach Street side, it will be in the building's back, which will be safer, Waugaman said. The drive-thru will be closer to Chapin Street to keep traffic separate from customers walking in the parking lot, he said.

Waugaman said he's excited about the progression of the project, which comes as Erie FCU --which was formed by Erie educators -- celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2016.

Erie Federal Credit Union's use of Glenwood School ties in with the organization's roots, he said.