Rebuilt La Mesa branch opens two years after fire 

January 11, 2023
The new Union Bank branch in La Mesa, California, opened in November 2022.

Union Bank opens new San Diego location with latest banking design elements, sustainability in mind.

When Carlton Hill watched the Union Bank branch he’d managed for 14 years burn down in May 2020, he knew it was a blow to the community, the branch’s clients and his team, but he also knew the branch would be rebuilt.

“I never doubted it for a second,” Hill said in December, days after the newly rebuilt branch opened in La Mesa, a city of about 60,000 located east of downtown San Diego. “We have been in this community since 1926, nearly 100 years, and I knew we wouldn’t turn our back on it.”

The branch was set on fire on May 30, 2020, after an initially peaceful protest over police brutality and racism grew violent. Several other La Mesa businesses were vandalized or destroyed that night. Union Bank immediately committed to rebuilding the branch. A temporary branch opened in January 2021, and the bank broke ground on the permanent replacement that July.

The new branch, which opened in November 2022, was designed with sustainability in mind and equipped with the latest branch banking design elements, said Hill, who is now a regional manager.

“We’ve got drought-tolerant landscaping and a low-water-use irrigation system outside, plus a filtration system that ensures only clean water leaves the site,” he said.

“Inside, we’ve got a hospitality bar where clients can get a cup of coffee or cold drink, plus a business banking hub where they can charge their mobile devices and meet with our small business specialists,” Hill said. “It took longer than we hoped to get it opened, but it’s truly a beautiful branch and was worth the wait.”

U.S. Bancorp in early December completed the acquisition of the MUFG Union Bank core regional banking franchise from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. Until the conversion of MUFG Union Bank systems and accounts, customers will continue to be served by their respective branches, website and mobile apps. Systems integration and account conversion is expected to occur in the first half of 2023.

The branch also features a tribute to the community members who, in the days after the fire, hung messages of hope on the temporary fencing around the rubble. It highlights a poster featuring hearts, handprints and the words “All we need is love” created by Aviana Dobesh, who was 5 years old when she painted it.

“I was heartbroken when I saw the branch on fire that night, but seeing the community rally in the days afterward filled me with optimism,” Hill said. “We’re honored to be an integral part of such a strong community.”

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