Climate First Bank, a newly formed community bank based in St. Petersburg, will have a new home in the city.
Veteran Florida banker and founder Ken LaRoe will be relocating his company’s headquarters to a former BB&T bank-operated building with a drive-thru.
Climate First Bank’s main office at 5301 Central Ave., which it has operated at for less than a year, will close as the operations will now be located at 182 37th Ave. North.
Climate First Bank has an emphasis on non-governmental organizations and businesses committed to sustainability. The bank offers dedicated loan options for solar energy retrofits and infrastructure to combat the climate crisis.
“The current location has always been a temporary location. It’s why we had a short-term lease, it’s not really suited to be a bank,” said LaRoe, who also founded and sold Florida Choice Bank and First GREEN Bank. “We felt that we need drive-thrus and this building is a match made in Heaven. St. Pete is where our HQ will stay and therefore, we are really compiling a brick-and-mortar presence. We need to have the look and feel a brick-and-mortar facility coveys – a standalone billboard, catching people’s eyes.”
LaRoe closed on the 5,781-square-foot building last week for roughly $3 million, he said.
He plans to lease part of the building to an architecture firm that’s based in Winter Park, but has many clients in the local area. LaRoe also plans to do an interior renovation in the building where he will add a second story of offices for Climate First Bank, as the building boasts tall ceilings.
With the construction, he anticipates the earliest his team can move in would be the end of April.
“Once we get into the new building, we may have a technology company we are working with be based here that is building our proprietary software, which we can offer to other banks. The building may then have as many as 15-18 people there on our side,” he said.
While LaRoe has built other companies and sold them, the plans for Climate First Bank differ.
“Traditionally, you would build it up, sell it, and investors would get big equity. I want this bank to be a platform for doing good where people can build a career here. It’s so disruptive when a bank sells,” he said, noting how it may eventually go public.