How United Bank’s Washington, DC expansion activated new custom design elements and put a signature on DC
Since 1839, United Bank’s commitment to the customers and communities they serve comes shining through. With an eye for opportunity and heart for relationships, United Bank has grown organically for 180+ years to serve the banking needs of the people of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington, DC through its 200+ branch network.
To meet a growing demand for local relationship banking, United Bank partnered with Adrenaline for our turnkey design-build capabilities to meet their goal of augmenting their presence in Washington, DC metro and extending their DC-based approach across their local-area retail network. Passionate about growth potential in the market, United Bank sought to be in some of DC’s hippest and historic trending neighborhoods. A property opportunity in Georgetown provided the perfect place to put down some additional roots.
Crafting a Modern Classic
After conducting due diligence – including zoning, building and historic requirements for construction in the new space – the Adrenaline team gathered information about United Bank’s overall business and operational goals for their latest branch in Georgetown. Next came surveying the space and developing floor plan studies and schematics for the programmatic elements to be installed inside the branch. Given this was a historical space being retrofitted to meet modern needs, there were quite a few physical space constraints and nuances of architecture to work through.
Using our integrated project delivery approach and proprietary turnkey process, Adrenaline was able to rapidly respond to client needs, providing United Bank with a robust plan and a cohesive customer journey we would build inside the branch. This was United Bank’s first major renovation, refresh or construction project with their new custom design, focused on making the most of foot traffic on the street and deploying a seamless experience inside the branch. Inspired by an industrial look, the branch was a successful nod to the past and future, keeping with the historic look of the street but also achieving what the modern brand demands.
Once secured, this classic location in the heart of Georgetown was the perfect point from which to grow United Bank’s footprint. Amping up their presence in this vibrant DC neighborhood, the bank determined that this new branch would embody a kickoff of a larger refresh initiative in their DC market expansion effort. Beyond residing in a fashionable well-trafficked neighborhood, the latest Georgetown branch represented growth opportunity for United Bank. Targeting strategic areas for growth, the neighborhood’s residents were the personification of United Bank’s rising North Star clientele.
Serving an influential audience, United Bank saw their new Georgetown branch as a place to present a polished sophistication as they evolved into a more retail-oriented financial institution. With strategic growth at the forefront, the branch gave United Bank the opportunity to take on and outshine larger competitors and increase their brand equity in a key competitive market. Primed for presence, the latest Georgetown branch would upgrade the way United Bank’s brand is expressed and projected into the physical environment.
Any design faces its own set of challenges, but one that has to meet historic standards means responsive pivots and outside-the-box thinking, balancing everything United Bank wanted in the space with the reality of what was possible. While Washington, DC is legendary for its stringent historical review and approval process, Adrenaline met the challenge with creative thinking and deep design expertise. With a goal of aligning Historical Board design criteria with the bank’s programmatic wants and needs, Adrenaline was tasked with rethinking how to leverage the space to maximize operational functionality.
For example, a street-level ATM was prohibited, so we created a custom architectural pull-down door that is open to the branch during the day but operates as an ATM vestibule at night. This solution ultimately turns an obstacle into a one-of-a-kind design feature. Another signature design element was the creation of a night projection. Per signage code, any lighting element had to be at least 18 inches back from the glass, so the team determined that two-story lighting would garner the greatest street-level visibility at night. It’s a brand association that reads distinctively United Bank.
With restricted signage and branding, the team had to get inventive with creative elements. While the first-to-second floor window illumination provided an opportunity for a highly visible brand beacon, the storefront partition and the pull-down door really gave a unique entrance that spoke to the interior design language of the space. Inside the branch, a long, narrow interior achieves a surprising level of functionality. Through innovative design, the team was able to shoehorn all the functionality a modern branch needs and still have a flowing and cohesive customer journey throughout the slender space.
In United Bank’s newest branch in Georgetown, the neighborhood itself sat at the design table – really determining some of the scale and scope of the design. The faux boxwood planter box across the front is in keeping with Georgetown character and the signage leaned on locally influenced and appropriate elements like halo-lit letters and a more muted color palette with a slightly toned-down historic version of United Bank’s distinctive green. While this signage approach would result in a quieter, more reserved brand presence, the upside is the feeling that United Bank’s new branch had been one of Georgetown’s longtime residents.
Extending the Brand
One major benefit flowing from the Georgetown branch design was what became signature design elements that could be deployed throughout the United Bank DC branch network. The swooping U-shaped light fixture, wood tones that bring a little more warmth and humanity into branch spaces and large-scale local photography – all combine to create such a powerful nod to the brand. The custom exterior and interior branded elements and signature lighting program, implemented in the other DC branches through a baseline kit-of-parts, provide a successful connective thread between branches.
Custom elements carried throughout all branches create a perceptible design language that became a signature to United Bank in the DC metro market. In preparation for the new branch and the updates to additional DC branches, an optimized and modernized logo was created by Adrenaline as part of a brand enhancement initiative, ensuring brand cohesion and an updated aesthetic to be rolled out into the spaces.
Framework for the Future
United Bank’s newest branch in Georgetown presented a powerful proof-of-concept. While not a prototype per se, Adrenaline’s branch design and finished construction did allow United Bank to incorporate creative elements that would be populated across the bank’s more prototypical locations to come. Key design and programmatic features the team developed, designed and deployed in this Georgetown branch are now being rolled out to United Bank’s other DC locations. Most notably of those is K Street, where the bank has really claimed the corner using their distinctive green as a signature and brand beacon.
Built out in an unprecedented 10 weeks, the proof-of-concept Georgetown branch is so successful that three additional branch renovation and fit-out projects are now underway. With an eye on evolving and shaping branded environmental elements, United Bank can achieve a seamless unification across their entire network in DC and beyond. With a platform for expansion, the bank is now armed with a holistic, recognizable design cadence, visual vocabulary, a uniquely ownable kit-of-parts and schematic solutions guidebook, all of which provides United Bank with a strategic branch framework for the next 5-10 years.