Bank’s ATM lights up Bristol historic district opposition

Historic District Commission hits pause on approving downtown Bank of America ATM plan

By Kristen Ray
Posted 2/13/20

 

 

CAPTION

 

 

QUOTE

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— Victor Cabral

 

Historic District Commissioin hits pause on approving downtown Bank of America ATM …

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Bank’s ATM lights up Bristol historic district opposition

Historic District Commission hits pause on approving downtown Bank of America ATM plan

Posted

The Bristol Historic District Commission threw up serious red flags on Bank of America’s application to put a new ATM vestibule in the historic downtown district. The commission discussed the application for an ATM at 467 Hope St. during its regular meeting last Thursday, Feb. 6, and after questioning the design and illuminated lighting, pushed the application into March without making a decision.

Looking to lease a 300-square-foot portion of the former Dunkin’ Donuts building adjacent to Caron Jewelers downtown, the bank first needs approval from the HDC before it can then present plans to the Bristol Zoning Board for its approval. Because Bank of America falls under the town’s “formula business” regulations for the historic district, it must pass through more scrutiny and review than typical businesses.

The bank’s proposal, architect Bryan Poisson told the commission, does not call for any major exterior changes, save for a new automatic, ADA-compliant doorway. Otherwise, the existing storefront would stay the same. Once inside, customers would be greeted by a check desk in the ATM lobby and two 24-hour ATMs, facing out toward Hope Street.

Yet, as town solicitor Andy Teitz pointed out last week, that design essentially creates one “huge sign” on a navy wall backdrop; surrounding the entire ATM console would be red, LED perimeter halo lighting, while above would be the Bank of America lettering and logo, backlit, on a high-gloss header.

While no one on the commission took issue with the ATMs themselves, they were concerned about high levels of cold, office-like lighting projecting onto Hope Street, impacting its otherwise warm, ambient glow.

“To have that very bright light might be a little jarring,” said board member Ben Bergenholtz.

To John Allen, that red lighting would “stick out like a sore thumb,” while Chris Ponder remarked that they do not want “a lighthouse” in downtown Bristol. Chairman Oryann Lima, additionally, was worried how such a “spotlight” on Hope Street could create a security risk; as a college town, she does not want “some wacko” targeting young students taking money out of the ATMs late at night.

While the bank does need some level of lighting for safety purposes, Mr. Poisson attempted to assure the HDC that they were not as extreme as commissioners were thinking them to be.

“It’s not this Citgo neon sign at the Red Sox game,” he said.

But without any visuals demonstrating what the space would look like at night, Mr. Bergenholtz said, there is no way board members could know anything for sure. Both Ms. Lima and Mary Millard asked Mr. Poisson where else in Rhode Island they could view an example of an indoor Bank of America ATM, while Gerald Walsh suggested the bank measure the existing light levels of an after-hours Hope Street. Victor Cabral, meanwhile, urged the commission to hit pause on the conversation altogether until Mr. Poisson did additional research and came back with a new plan.

“This is our town,” Mr. Cabral said. “This is not Bank of America’s town.”

The commission voted unanimously to continue the hearing until its next meeting on Thursday, March 5.

Last year, Bank of America closed its lone Bristol branch, also located in an historic building one block from the proposed ATM.

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