Hey, Umpqua Bank: Kim Kaselionis is playfully making that gesture with two extended fingers — the one where she makes a peace sign, points them at her own eyes and then points them at you.
Thursday marked the official debut of the 999 Grant Avenue building in downtown Novato, a retail/bank/restaurant complex that was to become headquarters of Kaselionis' baby, Circle Bank, but soon will become the local command post for Umpqua, which is finalizing the purchase of Circle Bank.
"We are confident that our successors are cut from a very similar cloth and will slip into our shoes in very short order," she said before about 150 people, "but if they don't, come see me and I will have a talk with them."
She said it in good humor while standing in first floor of 999 Grant, at the southeast corner of Grant Avenue and Redwood Boulevard, approximately where a showcase-grade restaurant will be placed next year. The nearly 20,000-square-foot building, designed by Crome Architecture of San Rafael and erected by Petaluma's Devcon Construction, also will be home to a second smaller eatery, a small branch of Umpqua and a larger administrative office area for Umpqua's regional staff.
The plan is for the businesses to open pretty much at the same time next summer or fall, with about 10,000 square feet available for lease. Until then, Umpqua will take over Circle's location at 1400 Grant Ave., about a half mile to the west.
More than 10 years ago, Kaselionis made a bid to purchase the land at 999 Grant on which a long-closed office building sat vacant. The former savings and loan building was constructed in 1968 and later became law offices and other businesses before slowly turning into the business district's white elephant. Kaselionis' effort to buy the place, empty since 1999, fell through, but she persevered and prevailed when Circle Bank purchased the old 9,000-square-foot building when the previous owner, Catlin Properties, declared bankruptcy in 2010.
(For videos of the first stages of demolition at 999 Grant, click here.)
After being congratulated Thursday by Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold and Novato Mayor Denise Athas, Kaselionis begged for forgiveness when it came time to thank everyone involved in the new building's construction. She turned melancholy for a minute as she talking about the strange timing of the bank sale and the 999 Grant debut.
"As soon as next week, we will cease to exist," she said of Circle Bank. "This announcement is a really bittersweet moment for us, but nonetheless I'm proud. ... It took over a decade of support, a lot of politicking, a lot of handshaking, pleading. But we have been able to transform the blight of this corner into an outstanding marvel.
"While 10 years is a long time to be after something, I would do it again in a heartbeat because Novato deserves no less."