CHICAGO -- BankAmerica Corp. and Continental Bank Corp., announced a five-year, $1 billion loan-and-investment program to benefit low-and moderate-income neighborhoods in Chicago.

BankAmerica also announced the opening of a community development division office of a thrift unit, Bank of America FSB, in Chicago,

The program, tied to the holding companies' pending merger, was developed in consultation with government and citizen groups to reflect "a significant new long-term commitment to community and economic development in Chicago," said Continental vice chairman William M. Goodyear, who will become chairman of Bank of America, Illinois.

The merger is expected to take effect this month.

The company said it would allocate $750 million for middle-market businesses that are in low- and moderate-income communities or that employ people with low or moderate incomes: $125 million for small business and women-and minority-owned firms; and $125 million in credit. investments, grants, and other capital and fund-raising efforts for loan pools and organizations in the areas of affordable housing, small business, social services, and community development.

Community activist Gate Cincotta, executive director of the National Training and Information Center, praised the said the merger would be a "major the Chicago community."

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