NORWAY – Norway Savings Bank is assessing the size of a renovation project to convert a vacant Auburn Mall building into its 23rd branch.

“We do have a lease on that space,” said Karen Hakala, vice president of marketing for the bank. “But the building has been closed for a long time, so it really needs an evaluation in terms of infrastructure for technology and the condition of the overall building.”

Hakala said the hope is to have a full-service branch open and operational by the end of the year.

“We’re really excited about it,” she said. “So many people have asked us, ‘When are you opening in Auburn?'”

The building is the former Fleet Bank branch that closed in 2002 and is in the parking lot on the north side of the mall. It was selected because of all the development activity around the mall.

Hakala said it simply made sense to locate its first Lewiston-Auburn branch in an area that draws a lot of people.

“We did a market assessment for traffic and looked a lot at that area,” she said. “People do their shopping, they run errands. If we can locate a branch where there’s a good traffic pattern, then it makes it easy for them.”

The bank has been expanding its presence at the rate of one new branch per year for the last four years, Hakala said. Next year it intends to open a branch in Yarmouth. Norway Savings already has a strong presence in the mid-coast area, stemming from its merger with Coastal Bank in 2001.

Based in Norway, the bank also has several locations along the Route 302 corridor, stretching from Gorham to Fryeburg. Hakala said the bank has been interested in opening a branch in the L-A area for a while.

“This helps us fill in that footprint,” she said.

Founded in 1866, Norway Savings Bank is the seventh-largest Maine-based bank. As of June 30, it had $877 million in total assets.

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