A deal with First Union Corp. would nearly double the branch count of a Philadelphia community development bank.

United Bank plans to buy four urban branches from the Charlotte, N.C.- based giant for an undisclosed price. First Union also said it will invest $1 million in United, the only minority-owned commercial bank in the Philadelphia area, and help develop educational programs for small businesses and consumers who are United customers.

Emma C. Chappell, United's chairman and chief executive officer, said the deal and the partnership would enable her $122 million-asset bank to offer more loans and services in Philadelphia's distressed neighborhoods.

"The more we can grow the bank, the more resources we have to do things in the community," Ms. Chappell said. "This allows us to take a larger role in our community."

United, founded in 1992, operates six branches in Philadelphia. In acquiring the First Union branches, United would gain almost $50 million of deposits, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

The partnership with First Union is similar to agreements United has reached with other large companies in the area.

In 1996 United began putting automated teller machines in Rite Aid Corp. stores as part of a program to encourage the drugstore's customers to use a bank instead of a check-cashing service. And in 1997 United began offering investment products and advice from American Express Financial Services.

The bank has also received investments from the city of Philadelphia and Fannie Mae.

First Union and United first discussed an alliance in 1998, shortly after the North Carolina company bought Philadelphia's CoreStates Financial Corp. No agreement was reached, but First Union did invest $1 million in the bank at that time.

First Union's investment in United earns it Community Reinvestment Act credit, because the Treasury considers United a community development financial institution.

A spokeswoman for First Union said it has invested in other community development banks, most recently in Atlanta and Richmond. However, this is the first time the company has partnered with a development bank to provide educational programs as well as capital.

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