BankAmerica Corp. will open an office of its affordable housing unit in Atlanta on July 15 as part of a campaign to expand its Community Reinvestment Act lending in the Southeast.

"We hope to take our product to that market pretty quickly," said Gregory A. Hyson, vice president for community development at Bank of America. "We have the ability to deliver loans for projects that would not otherwise get done."

BankAmerica, whose lead bank has an "outstanding" CRA rating, has been widely praised for its innovative community development programs.

The Atlanta office will offer many of the products the bank provides on the West Coast, including construction financing, tax bridge financing, letters of credit for bond issues, predevelopment financing, tax-exempt bond financing, and direct bond purchases.

Bank of America has recruited Reginald Fenn from the Georgia Housing Finance Authority to head the office, which will be part of the company's savings bank subsidiary. "Our products will be tailored to the individual transactions," he said. "Our goal is to get as competitive an interest rate and fee structure as possible."

The bank has been offering small-business loans in Atlanta since last year, but this is the first time it has committed to make large development loans there.

Mr. Hyson said the Atlanta office will serve as a hub for expansion to neighboring markets, such as Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. "This is a great place to start," he noted.

BankAmerica picked Atlanta because other banks in the market were ignoring profitable lending opportunities in the inner city, Mr. Hyson said. "There are neighborhoods and communities in Atlanta proper that need attention."

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