The Story Behind the Fillmore Inn Development Deal

PROMINENT DEVELOPERS TURN TO ACADEMY BANK’S CREATIVE FINANCING SOLUTION FOR HOTEL

The four-story, 100-room Fillmore Inn at I-25 and Fillmore Street isn’t just a new concept hotel in Colorado Springs, CO. It’s the product of an innovative financing deal recommended by Academy Bank to high profile developers who were long-time clients.

For John Gatto, president of Crestone Development, the local developer of the Fillmore Inn project, the deal couldn’t be sweeter. “Academy Bank did everything they could to move it forward for us,” says Gatto. “They have a desire to know intimately about our projects, and they’ve been responsive and helpful to us every time we’ve called.”

Gatto and co-developer Frank Day worked with Steve Ingham, senior vice president and director of commercial lending at Academy Bank in Colorado Springs to accomplish their ‘done deal.’

OUTSIDE-THE-BOX THINKING SEALED THE DEAL

Ingham saw the vision of the ‘perfect deal’ for Gatto and Day. Gatto’s firm, Crestone Development, has developed a number of mixed-use properties in the Colorado Springs area. Day is an icon in the hospitality and restaurant industries, having founded the Old Chicago restaurant chain, Rock Bottom Brewery and several other restaurant and hotel properties. Both are veteran developers with an appreciation for innovation.

The solution Academy Bank brought to the table made a lasting impact on the developers. “Steve Ingham has been invaluable in helping us develop our project,” Day explains. “He guided us through a complex process and made it seem very easy.”

Academy Bank arranged financing for Gatto and Day for a nearly 13-acre site back in 2007. After the recession hit in 2008, the pair delayed developing the site until infrastructure work was completed. An interchange near the site was reconfigured, and surrounding healthcare developments took shape. The community’s economic pump was primed for new construction, and a hotel serving this rebounding area made perfect sense (tourism is the second-largest segment of the Colorado Springs economy).

“Frank and John had a lot of banking relationships, so I knew they had an opportunity to work with other lenders,” explains Ingham. “I knew they were thinking about a hotel, so I met with them and told them we wanted to stay involved in the hotel project on that site.”

Ingham, a 38-year veteran of the banking business, loves seeing businesses become successful. And he knows that it often takes a little creativity to make a ‘done deal’ happen. That impulse is what led him to an innovative solution for Gatto and Day.

“I began investigating an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan for them – it’s unique.” Ingham liked the advantages of this approach for the borrowers because it required less equity, and they could finance more costs without taking an excessive risk.

After discussing the project with the regional economic development officials, Ingham saw how an innovative financing package anchored by an SBA loan would benefit the project. So he proposed the concept to Gatto and Day for their hotel project.

This type of financing was complex, but full of advantages. Academy Bank’s proposed solution leveraged the Certified Development Corporation (CDC) 504 loan program through the SBA. This approach provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings. Gatto and Day’s $10+ million hotel project qualified.

“Academy Bank has helped us tremendously with the SBA 504 process and has been instrumental in helping us get through that process,” explains Gatto, “along with providing construction financing for a hotel.”

QUICKER DECISIONS FROM A FAMILY-OWNED BANK

As with most real estate developers, The Fillmore Inn team relies on trusted relationships with their financial partners. Frank Day says, “Academy Bank was a natural fit for John Gatto and him.”

“Academy Bank combines the personal touch of a community bank with the financial strength of a much larger group. From our point of view, dealing with Steve Ingham was a throwback to the days when the bank president was the owner of the bank. Very personal and things got done without much red tape,” Day says.

Gatto agrees. “We’ve been with Academy Bank for 20 years, and it’s all about a long-term, personal, banking relationship,” he says. “One of the advantages of working with a private bank, and one the size of Academy Bank, is that we know all the people processing our loan, and they know us,” says Gatto. “The decision-making process occurs rather quickly, as opposed to some of the larger banks, and we like that. That’s our profile and how we like to do business.” says Gatto.

Steve Ingham agrees that familiarity was a big factor, as was the fact that Academy Bank and Crestone Development were such a good fit and willing to try a new approach together. “I really think the type of customer we best match up with is the customer that is looking to engage with a bank for more than just a transaction,” Ingham says.

“We had an opportunity to advise them on this type of loan, and we worked hard to make it simple,” explains Ingham. “We even closed the loan in Boulder to accommodate Frank’s busy schedule.”

“Our ownership trusts us to develop our market and develop relationships with those clients. We could’ve looked at a traditional loan, but the SBA way made so much sense,” recalls Ingham. “We try to find solutions for our borrowers, and this was a great one.”