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Commentary: Citizens Trust moving, but continuing mission

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta



 

Citizens Trust has been a fixture on Auburn Avenue for decades, but it will soon call Peachtree Street home.

The bank was known for lending money to African-Americans who couldn’t borrow money from white-owned banks.

And in the 1960s Auburn Avenue was called “the richest Negro street in the world.”

That was when successful Atlanta builder Herman Russell became the bank’s largest shareholder and built a headquarters building at 75 Piedmont, giving the bank a piece of the skyline.

A few years ago, Georgia State University bought it. Citizens Trust CEO Cynthia Day calls the move “really bittersweet.” Once, the area was surrounded by black-owned businesses, such as Gourmet Services and Atlanta Life.

Today, the area has been enveloped by the GSU campus, contributing to the shifting flavor of the Sweet Auburn corridor.

Although the bank is moving to Peachtree Street, Day says its mission is not changing.

About 70 percent of its customers are black and that it continues to focus on the bank’s mission of building community.

During the Great Recession, when many Georgia banks were failing, Citizens Trust never posted a loss.

It currently has assets of about $390 million, and it is among the top five black-owned banks in the country.

So Citizens Trust may be changing addresses and losing its name over the skyline, but it’s definitely not going away.

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