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What does Bank of America pullout mean for mall at foot of NB cliffs?

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Bank of America’s decision to begin cutting branches means the developer of a controversial three-store shopping strip at the foot of the Palisades will have to find another client. Where that leaves the North Bergen project, the deveoper wouldn’t say.

Paramus-based Avak Properties LLC caused enough of an uproar after it bought part of the property from the township at a public auction. Earth-moving machines quickly began knocking down buildings and clearing trees, raising concerns about the structural integrity of the cliffs just across River Road from Palisades General Hospital.

Despite the opposition, plans were approved at the local and county level for a three-store shopping center, with a Walgreens, a Starbucks and a Bank of America.

However, Bank of America this week said it’s seeking fewer outlets over the next three years, given growing reliance of customers banking online and over the phone.

Avak officials aren’t talking.

However, township spokesman Phil Swibinksi told CLIFFVIEWPILOT today: “The basic situation is that it’s their decision what type of bank will be there and the township is not involved in the matter, beyond being totally confident that the space will be filled.”

Bank of America’s decision raises questions about future expansion of all banks — and whether the third business in the shopping center will be a financial center.

Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the nation’s largests bank has 29.2 million Internet accounts as of June 30 and 3 million mobile customers. Locally, it operates a drive-up ATM lot in Weehawken with no tellers.

The bank has cut nearly two dozen branches the past year, leaving just over 6,100. And although officials have backtracked a bit, Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis has told investors he plans to shrink branches by 10 percent.

Bank of America officials yesterday said they haven’t decided how many branches to eliminate.

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