GU’s Million-Dollar Investment Cited at City First Bank Opening

By Andy Amend Hoya Staff Writer

District Mayor Anthony Williams and University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J. were among the speakers at Wednesday morning’s ceremony celebrating the opening of City First Bank of D.C. Georgetown was one of the earliest financial backers of City First, which, according to a Jan. 20 press release, seeks to “lead a renaissance of Washington’s diverse low and moderate income communities.”

City First President and CEO Debbi Hurd Baptist opened the event, which included four short speeches, a keynote address by Williams and acknowledgements, followed by an open house reception at the bank, located at 1400 14th St., NW. Baptist said the celebration’s purpose was to thank all those who have worked for the past four years to make a reality the District’s first “community development bank.”

As a community development bank, City First’s “only business is the building of D.C.’s neighborhoods. We focus on strengthening small businesses and increasing home ownership through loan and retail banking services,” a brochure states.

Georgetown pledged the first million-dollar investment in City First in 1995, and is now a voting shareholder in the bank, according to University Vice President and Treasurer Nicole andeville. Mandeville is also both an individual shareholder and a member of the City First Board of Directors.

“As part of my role as a director, I have the opportunity to offer my input, on behalf of the university, regarding the bank’s various initiatives,” Mandeville said. Any money Georgetown makes from the investment will go into the school’s general operating fund, she added.

O’Donovan said in his speech Wednesday that Mandeville approached him four years ago about the idea of City First, at which point he learned that no investors had yet made any large contributions to the bank. O’Donovan said the bank’s commitment to urban revitalization fit well with Georgetown’s mission as a Catholic school. He also stressed Georgetown’s commitment to improving the District, noting that the university employs over 2200 D.C. residents, runs widespread tutoring programs, and offers legal and medical services to those who live in the District through its public interest law programs and edical Center.

“When she [Mandeville] asked me, `Who better to make the first investment than Georgetown, a Catholic institution dedicated to the city and society?’ I thought about it and said, `Of course, no one,'” O’Donovan said.

Other Speakers Wednesday included Assistant Housing and Urban Development Secretary Cardell Cooper, Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury Jerry Hawke, and District Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

In addition, City First Board Member C.F. Muckenfuss read a letter from first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was invited to the event but could not attend. Clinton sent her regrets said she was “grateful for community development banks like City First” that offer a way to alleviate poverty, create jobs and build capital in urban neighborhoods.

Muckenfuss said Clinton has been a supporter of the federal government’s involvement with City First. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has contributed $3.5 million to City First, which is a pilot institution for a Housing and Urban Development “community empowerment banking initiative,” according to Wednesday’s City First press release.

City First will look to serve neighborhoods “east of 16th St., NW, and east of the Anacostia River, particularly Columbia Heights and Washington Heights,” according to its brochure.

Williams called the bank a “tremendous” initiative to improve quality of life in the District. “We’re only going to make headway on the ground in our neighborhoods,” he said.

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