Sep. 14—HARTLAND — It was like a welcome back home party Thursday in Hartland with the opening of the new Arcadian Bank after the former building was badly damaged by a tornado in December 2021.
Bank employees greeted many customers with hugs in the lobby of the bank, gave tours of the new facility and served food and beverages under a tent across the street.
"We were grateful to get the building up and running," Arcadian Bank President and Chief Financial Officer Mark Heinemann said. "Hartland customers have been great, adapting to not having a bank locally — going to Freeborn and Albert Lea — and sticking with us and trusting us to get it rebuilt. We didn't think it would take two years, but it's finally here."
The tornadoes on Dec. 15, 2021, were the latest tornadoes in the year to ever strike the state in Minnesota history.
The fast-moving Hartland tornado reached wind speeds as high as 115 mph and was 55 yards wide. It damaged numerous buildings, trees and utility poles, with significant damage coming in the center of town to both residential and business structures.
Heinemann said on the evening of tornadoes, he remembers sitting in his basement knowing that the severe weather was coming. He said he kept getting notifications on his phone of burglary alarms at the bank but kept canceling them because he figured law enforcement had more important things to do.
Soon enough, however, he got a call from the Freeborn County Sheriff's Office, who alerted him that he would need to go check on the bank.
He came up to Hartland with a group of other staff who had heard about the tornado and saw the damage that night. Firefighters made sure it was safe to enter and they made sure everything was secure.
The bank was ultimately shut down, and they then began the job of assessing the damages — something Heinemann said was hard to do.
A structural engineer made the assessment that anything ground level and up had to come off as bricks were warped, twisted or cracked. The basement was in good shape but they couldn't tell right away.
He said part of the former building was constructed in 1912 and the other part in 1996.
They then had to have the conversation of whether to rebuild.
"Pretty quickly our management team and board all came to the same conclusion that it's the right thing for the community to rebuild," Heinemann said. "Then we had to figure out what we were going to rebuild and how."
He noted that though he hated to see a historic structure lost, the reality was that the building was no longer going to be a historic building any longer, and they made the decision to start over.
He also pointed out how the needs of the banking community have changed from 1912 to today. Building a new bank would allow them to incorporate more modern amenities, such as a drive-thru and an ATM.
The insurance valuation process took much longer than they initially thought it would, but eventually the old building came down in fall 2022 and construction started in late March of this year. The general contractor was Hinkle Construction and Accord Architecture Co. provided the building plans. Arcadian employee Brandon Brackey was the project manager.
Heinemann said the total square footage of the new building is half of what their old building was as it does not have a basement, though the footprint of the new building is similar.
The community has been excited and grateful to see the bank be rebuilt, and the bank leadership decided to tie in the tours with the bank's annual community appreciation event. L&D Ag down the street also partnered for tours of its new welding shop.
"Our hope is we've shown our commitment to the community that we can start to grow our business in the area and the value of that local connection," he said.
The bank officially opens for business on Monday.