Officials on Wednesday cut the ribbon on JP Morgan Chase’s new “community branch” at Mondawmin Mall. Photo by Adam DeRose.

JP Morgan Chase opened the city’s first “community branch” in West Baltimore Wednesday in a ribbon cutting celebration that included community leaders, city officials, governor-elect Wes Moore, and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

The bank, located outside Mondawmin Mall at 2415 Liberty Heights Ave., is one of only 14 community branches in the country. Chase opened its first community branch in Harlem, New York City in 2019. The model is part of Chase’s $30 billion commitment to addressing racial inequality and the racial wealth gap.

“We are restoring this historic neighborhood and giving it the attention and investment that is deserved for quite some time,” Mayor Brandon Scott said. “Poverty in our city is far too pervasive, and as we know, the racial wealth divide has caused decades of challenges for Baltimore families, including my own. Anybody that has grown up Black in Baltimore has suffered because of that racial wealth divide.”

In addition to traditional banking services, the new location will support local small and minority-owned businesses with mentorship and consulting services, hold free financial workshops, and offer home-buying seminars for members of the community.

“It is so critically important to give our residents access to quality and fair financial services to help them create and grow their wealth,” Scott said.

The bank plans on holding pop-up events for local vendors, restaurateurs and community groups, and the building is equipped with free WiFi for all residents regardless of whether or not they bank with Chase. Even the location’s art was sourced by local talent, officials said.

The new Mondawmin location is part of Chase’s plans to grow its footprint in the region. The bank has opened 16 branches in Baltimore since 2019. Another 20 branches in the Baltimore area are in the works, company officials touted Wednesday.

“We’ve always tested new types of branches,” Dimon said. “I don’t even know who came up with the idea… for a community branch, but it’s been a wonderful idea.”

What sets a community branch apart from other banks is its “community manager,” a role separate from the branch manager, Dimon said.

The Mondawmin location’s community manager Joel Gamble, who was raised in West Baltimore, will be out in the community, meeting with local nonprofits, churches and schools and building relationships with local businesses and entrepreneurs to make sure they know about the community-centered services the bank offers for free.

Maryland Governor-elect Wes Moore speaks at a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday for JP Morgan Chase’s “community branch” at Mondawmin Mall. Photo by Adam DeRose.

To residents, Wednesday’s opening represents a growing renaissance for the greater Mondawmin community.

“A community bank is one thing that we can use. This is going to be good,” said Adeline Wheless-Hutchinson, president of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council. “Between that and the Target, this is really something for the community.”

Chase’s new community branch dovetails plans to build out a community center at the mall in the anchor building which formerly housed a Target, shuttered in 2018.

Whiting-Turner CEO Tim Regan purchased the building earlier this spring and plans to open a new community “hub.” Regan committed to a multimillion-dollar investment in the property based on community input directly from neighbors.

Incoming governor Wes Moore also lauded projects like Chase’s community branch Wednesday and said similar efforts in Baltimore are key to a “thriving Maryland.”

“We’re sitting in a neighborhood right now, where the poverty rate hovers around 29 percent,” Moore said. “What we have seen in so many of our communities has been a fundamental breakdown, and the only way you’re going to address a fundamental breakdown is a fundamental build up. And that means knowing that everybody is going to have a role…. We’re talking about philanthropy, the private sector, the public sector, government organizations, the people.”