On the corner of Farmington and Grand River Roads is a memorial to Farmington’s past and also a glimpse into his future.
An article in Farmington Enterprise of March 4, 1921 predicted that the massive brick Farmington State Savings Bank building would “herald a new era in Farmington Village business.”
Nearly a century after the bank’s building opened in 1922, GLP Financial Group is pinning similar hopes to the renovated 12,000-square-foot building, which is part of a 33,000-square-foot commercial block in downtown Farmington that the company now owns.
“We want it to be a centerpiece,” says Alex Kocoves, CEO and Chairman of the Board of GLP. “We want to see the community grow. It’s a great place. We could do better.”
Just as the Farmington State Savings Bank, founded in 1910 by Farmington settler PD Warner, attempted to build what he told the Enterprise “a modern bank building,” GLP is attempting to modernize the gargantuan building last known as The Village Mall while retaining it of the historic footprint of the iconic building.
A unique opportunity
In 2019, financial planning firm GLP, founded in 1969, wanted to save money on its rising rental costs by purchasing a main commercial building. Although there were many buildings in the market, nothing felt right. “Every building we looked at was a big rectangle,” says Kocoves.
Birmingham-based Biddison Architecture and Royal Oak-based Ronnisch Construction Group worked together to convert the 1939 Birmingham post office into The Surnow Company’s headquarters, preserving the building’s exterior and converting the interior into modern offices . Could GLP do something similar?
The Village Mall, formerly known as Farmington State Savings Bank, was up for sale and in need of TLC. The interior had been compartmentalized over the years, with many layers of wallpaper, old plumbing that might not even have been used, and many other quirks.
“They just overbuilt everything,” says Kocoves.
Still, Kocoves and GLP President Matt DeSantos can see the future of their company in downtown Farmington. “It has a certain atmosphere,” says Kocoves, who saw the renovation as a catalyst for more traffic and prosperity downtown.
The large bank building was part of a block of land that included eight apartments and about 10 other businesses along Grand River and Farmington Roads that are now leased by GLP. Some tenants in the Village Mall building had to relocate. PLUS Skateboarding, located in the basement of the building, joined other GLP-owned retail spaces along the Grand River. GLP also established temporary offices there, relocating from its Farmington Hills office to 12 Mile and Halsted Roads.
Today, passers-by may notice the initials “FSB” high above the bank’s diagonal entrance and the words “Farmington State Savings Bank” on the sides facing Grand River and Farmington Roads.
“We always wanted to preserve the integrity of the building’s exterior,” says Kocoves, explaining that the original plan of sandblasting and restoring the exterior limestone proved too time-consuming and expensive. Instead, the builders removed the Village Mall signage and layers of paint and gave the exterior a fresh coat of paint that mimics the limestone look of the 1920s.
The interior plans include maintaining an open floor plan with floor to ceiling views. The new space will have three floors – the basement, which housed the bank’s main vault; the ground floor, which housed the original lobby and cashiers; and an upper floor newly created with glazed offices. An internal staircase will lead to the upper and lower floors, but building regulations required the installation of an elevator.
GLP wanted to restore the original marble floors, but they were too damaged, as was the Fraser Fir coffered ceiling. The large windows had to be enlarged a bit so that they reach further towards the ground in the ground floor offices. But the overarching goal is to blend the modern with the historic.
The large vault where, according to Kocoves, “the real money was kept” in the original bank, will be represented at GLP headquarters. The plan is to lift the stout vault door – which, according to a March 1922 Farmington Enterprise article, weighs more than 10,000 pounds – out of the basement and mount it on a third-floor wall, visible to visitors.
Kocoves joked that builders didn’t find Jimmy Hoffa’s remains in the old structure, but they did find some historical remains, including an old pub. The small room located beneath what is now the Evolve Body Art Studio has evidence of a quick door locking system to evade the police. “They had to pull a cord that locked the door when the cops came,” says Kocoves. He’s hoping someone will reopen the pub once the basement is renovated.
The headquarters will house 25 GLP employees, as well as about 150 traveling representatives who visit regularly and need a welcoming “home base,” says Kocoves. The attractive building will include an executive lounge in one of the top floor apartments, a staff lounge, a workout area, a rooftop picnic area and – if Kocoves has its way – a golf simulator in the basement to beat the blues in cold weather.
Room to grow, a place in community
The refurbished building not only provides an impressive building to attract customers and employees, but also offers plenty of room to grow as the business expands. Kocoves said GLP nearly doubled its revenue this year, largely due to increased business from virtual wealth management meetings.
Additionally, Kocoves says the decision to purchase the bank building is financially sound, despite increased prices for building materials and delays caused by the pandemic. With paying tenants and missing rent payments, GLP saves a lot of overhead costs.
“The big picture is being part of a community,” says Kocoves. Owning the landmark real estate block in downtown Farmington entrenches GLP in the community and offers the opportunity to attract better and more retailers, he says.
When Farmington State Savings Bank broke ground on its new building in 1921, feelings were similar. Space was scarce, so “bank directors decided to embark on a project aimed at expanding and improving Farmington,” according to the Farmington Enterprise article. The project included the removal of the unused Owen Hotel from the property, the construction of the stately bank building and the addition of several apartments, offices and shops to create a “Farmington business block to which every citizen can point with a sense of satisfaction”.
Similar to the Farmington State Savings Bank open house held in March 1922, GLP plans to host grand openings for the community and local businesses in the spring when the interior renovation is complete.