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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 7 months ago

Bank that 'loves dirt' makes $75M in multifamily loans

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Conway, Ark.-based Centennial Bank isn't shy about loans.

A banker’s go-to line — ‘We are lending’ — has real muscle at Centennial Bank.

The Conway, Ark.-based bank, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire Florida banks this decade, recently closed three large multifamily-focused loans in the Sarasota market. Two loans, one $20 million and one $30 million, are for joint ventures for luxury single-family rental home projects. One project is on Lido Key; the other Siesta Key. A third loan, $25 million, is for a condo project on Whitaker Bayou, just north of downtown Sarasota.

Centennial Bank, under its parent, Home BancShares Inc., was founded 20 years ago. It now has $14.8 billion in assets, with locations in Arkansas, Florida, South Alabama and New York. From 2012 to 2015 it acquired three banks in the region: Tampa-based Bay Cities Bank, an FDIC-assisted deal of Heritage Bank of Florida in Lutz and Florida Traditions Bank in Dade City.

Dennis McLean, a Centennial senior commercial lender for the Southwest Florida market, says the bank has been aggressive — both in the numbers and personal side of a loan. On numbers, the bank, he says, has taken on riskier loans with developers who have a solid track record, starting small and getting to the $30 million and up level. On the personal side, McLean says top Centennial executives, including chairman John Allison, have flown to Sarasota multiple times to meet the key developers behind the recent loans.

“This bank can punch with the big guys and keep the local feel,” McLean tells Coffee Talk. “It loves doing loans on dirt and loans a lot of banks won’t do. It will take some chances.”

The development team behind the luxury multifamily projects on Lido Key and Siesta Key is a joint venture between Casto Group and Anna Maria Island homebuilder Shawn Kaleta. McLean has worked with both entities for several years and believes the timing is right for their project — homes that will rent for between $5,000 to $15,000 per week during high season. “Sarasota has become a global destination,” McLean says. “There is a big demand for luxury family properties like this but little supply.”

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