Ameris Bank is joining the Downtown Jacksonville skyline by Jan. 1.
The bank signed a lease Friday for space at Riverplace Tower on the Downtown Southbank and will put its name on the top of two sides of the building, said President and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Cheney.
Cheney said Ameris Bank will move about 40 employees to start. Its total space will reach 35,000 square feet, starting with 15,000 square feet on the 26th floor and about 4,000 square feet for a branch on the first floor of the 28-story tower.
Ameris Bank is the wholly owned banking subsidiary of Ameris Bancorp, which is based in Moultrie, Ga. Ameris has 150 employees in Jacksonville, including 120 at the administrative and operations center in the suburbs and 30 in the branches. That number is expected to increase.
Cheney said the Moultrie-based executive team will relocate to the tower, although the bank will continue to be based in Georgia, where it is chartered. He said five Ameris Bancorp executives will move to Jacksonville.
“We are really excited to bring our executive team to Jacksonville,” Cheney said Friday afternoon. “It’s a great geography for our company.”
The lease is with CFLC Replace LLC, which was formed by Lingerfelt CommonWealth of Richmond, Va., and Fortress Investment Group of New York. The company bought the tower, at 1301 Riverplace Blvd., in October.
He said the lease was long-term, but declined to provide specific terms. The project will need build-out and signage permits.
Cheney has been based in Jacksonville since joining the company and is a long-time banker and business leader in the community. Among his leadership roles, he served as chairman of the JAX Chamber. The chamber’s targeted industries include executive offices and corporate headquarters.
“It’s fantastic that most of the executives for Ameris Bank have consolidated here in Jacksonville and that they are moving to a Downtown location,” said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership, the economic-development division of JAX Chamber.
Mallot called the lease and executive move another win for the community. “We really appreciate the leadership role Andy Cheney has played in Jacksonville and will continue to play as he helps Ameris grow here in Jacksonville,” he said.
Executives relocating from Moultrie are Ameris Bancorp President and CEO Edwin Hortman Jr.; Chief Financial Officer Dennis Zember Jr.; Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary Cindi Lewis; Chief Credit Officer Jon Edwards; and Commercial Banking Executive James LaHaise.
When Ameris Bancorp announced the executives’ move in April to the Moultrie Observer newspaper, they said Jacksonville’s workforce availability was the key factor.
Cheney said the executives’ move to Jacksonville signals the company’s growth strategy. He said about a third of the company’s business operates in Florida.
Ameris Bank has 12 branches in Northeast Florida, including four in Jacksonville. The company, with $5.4 billion in assets, has 104 locations in Georgia, Alabama, northern Florida and South Carolina.
Ameris Bank maintains its Jacksonville corporate, loan processing and operations in Deerwood Center along Baymeadows Way and a call center in St. Augustine. Cheney said the call center and other IT and back-office operations would move within the Baymeadows area while the executive offices move Downtown.
Riverplace Tower’s most recent anchor tenant Wachovia, whose signs were taken down in 2011 after the bank merged with Wells Fargo.