See how the redevelopment of this historic Farmington bank turned out — and why it matters

Two years have passed since our initial tour of the Farmington State Savings Bank building in downtown Farmington. In August 2020, the historic building was stripped of its interior and all that remained was an empty shell filled with nothing but construction crews and promise. Today, some two-plus years later, that promise has been fulfilled as the GLP Financial Group has now moved into their new world headquarters at the intersection of Farmington and Grand River Avenue. (A note that the photos featured here were taken just prior to GLP’s employees moving into their new offices.)

In its century of existence, the GLP Financial Group’s renovation of the historic bank building is perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to the building since the original Farmington State Savings Bank first opened in 1922. While the historic exterior has been refurbished to closely resemble the look and feel of the building as it was originally built, the interior has been completely redeveloped as a thoroughly modern and state-of-the-art office building. Approximately 20 full-time employees work there now, and more than a 100 salespeople will make the trip to downtown Farmington to visit the offices as needed. It’s a boon for the company, its employees, and the downtown Farmington community as a whole.

“This is a big investment but we’re in it for the long haul,” says Alex Kocoves, CEO.
Construction delays may have pushed back the timeline, but the wait, and the headaches associated with trying to bring a 100-year-old building up to 21st century office standards, have been well worth it, say Alex Kocoves, CEO, and Matt DeSantos, president of GLP Financial. They credit local firms Biddison Architecture + Design and Ronnisch Construction Group with their success.

“I think when you take something that's 100 years old, that really needed a lot of work, and restore it to where it's beautiful again, where people drive by and go, ‘Wow’ — there’s a legacy there. We had a big part of the additional growth of downtown Farmington,” Kocoves says. “And I think we’re going to see the rewards of this more and more down the road. Fifteen years from now, we’ll look back at some of the times when we wanted to pull our hair out and we’re going to say that it was all worth it. Because this thing is going to stand forever.”

[Related: Read “Take a peek inside the redevelopment of the historic Farmington State Savings Bank building” for more photos from before the renovations.]

A big investment

GLP Financial Group was founded in 1969 providing 403(b) services for educators and their retirement plans; a 403(b) plan is similar to a 401(k) but for public schools and select charities. They’ve since branched out, providing retirement planning, asset protection, and wealth management services to educators and non-educators alike. Some 50 years after their founding, GLP Financial decided it was time to stop leasing office space and purchase a headquarters of their own. They would leave their offices in Farmington Hills in 2020 after purchasing the historic bank building in downtown Farmington, their employees working virtually and from a temporary office space until late this summer.

Nearly 20 full-time employees will work at the new headquarters.
With a reported $2.6 million purchase price and more than $3 million in renovations, GLP Financial certainly didn’t take the inexpensive route in establishing their new headquarters. But the new offices, as well as the several attached storefronts and apartments that were included in the sale of the building, are as much an investment as anything.

Matt DeSantos, president of GLP Financial Group. (File photo: David Lewinski, 2020)“We're putting more money into this property than what it’s valued at today. Now in the end, we think it'll be a great investment. But that's how serious we are about making this what we want it to be,” DeSantos says.

Kocoves shares that belief.

“If the real estate stayed flat, this building is still going to help our business grow. So even down the road, 10 years from now, if this building didn't appreciate at all and stayed level, it won't matter because of the revenue we're going to generate business-wise. So that's why it's a win-win,” Kocoves says. “Of course, we happen to think it's going to be both. Business is gonna boom, and we believe the whole value of this town is gonna go up.”

One of the big reasons DeSantos and Kocoves are bullish on GLP Financial’s future in their new home comes down to attracting and retaining talent. Recruits will not only be impressed when they walk into the new headquarters, but also long before that as they pull into town. The charming environs of downtown Farmington make for an attractive place to work; your standard cookie-cutter office park this is not.

In the world of financial services, Kocoves says, image is key.

Alex Kocoves, CEO of GLP Financial Group. (File photo: David Lewinski, 2020)“For recruiting new people, when somebody comes to get a job, they're gonna say, do I want to work for the guy with an office in a strip mall? Or are they going to look at us and ask, what are these guys doing right? What’s their success?” he says. “I think that is going to help us grow the business from a stability standpoint. We’ve been doing it for 53 years now and we’re here for at least another 50. This is a big investment but we’re in it for the long haul.”

Excitement and energy

Outside the new headquarters, construction crews are working on the Farmington Road Streetscape Project, a multi-million dollar project that is making the corridor more pedestrian-friendly and includes new landscaping, benches, bike racks, and more. The Grand River Avenue streetscape serves as an example of what’s to come.

Outside the new headquarters, construction crews are working on the Farmington Road Streetscape Project
Annual events, like October’s Grand Raven Festival — which GLP Financial sponsors — routinely draw visitors to the downtown city streets and social district. And new small businesses consistently pop up in between the well-established ones. One soon-to-open business, Ground Control Coffee Roasters, will operate out of one of GLP Financial’s storefronts.

[Related: Read “Meet the entrepreneurs who are about to turn Farmington into a coffee destination” on Metromode.]

A positive feedback loop is forming, one where downtown Farmington attracts businesses like GLP Financial and GLP Financial is helping to make downtown Farmington more attractive.

“I think (projects like the streetscape) just complement everything that we're doing to improve the downtown, too. The city’s doing that; we're bringing in new tenants. The excitement and the energy down here is just at a totally different place than before we got here,” DeSantos says. “It's exciting. I mean, it's kind of like we’re doing it with the city, which is cool and it's what we wanted. That’s the vision of having a downtown home like this.”

The basement of the new GLP Financial Group headquarters.
There are still improvements planned for the rest of the building, which includes several occupied storefronts and apartments, but with employees now working out of the Farmington State Savings Bank building itself, Kocoves and DeSantos might take a break on the development front. This was a big project, and one that took a lot of time and energy. But you also get the impression that this is something that they enjoyed and found rewarding, both professionally and personally. Whatever break they do take, it might not be for long.

“I would think we’ll rest for a little bit. But I have a feeling that after all this, we're gonna look at each other and ask: What’s next,” Kocoves says. “We have more stuff to do within the property, but I'm talking about the next bigger project. We've been tied up in this for so long, we’re going to look at each other one day and go, okay, what’s the next thing that we’re gonna do.”
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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.