CHICAGO -- Minnesota banker Steven Kirchner came here last week to learn about patience, perseverance, and reality in community development lending from the company that wrote the book on it: Shorebank Corp.

"We're interested in the whole concept of community development corporation banking," said Mr. Kirchner, vice president of Richfield State Agency, a bank holding company that wants to start its own community development bank. "We're right at the business planning stage. We realize this is only one model, but we feel it can help us think through the things we need to think through."

Mr. Kirchner was one of more than 40 attendees from 15 banks around the country last week who made a pilgrimage to the oracle of community development lending. Shorebank's parent, South Shore Bank, has been selling its advice to increasing numbers of would-be development banks since President Clinton cited it as a model for community development lending in his '92 campaign.

"This is an approach which this bank has demonstrated can work," said Floyd E. Stoner, the director of legislative operations at the American Bankers Association. "That is something we would like to expose other bankers to."

For the attendees at a conference organized here by the ABA Center for Community Development and Shorebank Advisory Services, it was a firsthand glimpse of the mettle it takes to be in the business.

Shorebank has helped start community development banks or corporations in locales as diverse as Baltimore, Portland, Ore., Arkansas, Michigan, Kansas, Cleveland, and Eastern Europe.

Shorebank Advisory Services, its for-profit consulting firm, is the main vehicle for spreading this expertise. Last year, Shorebank Advisory did 52 projects in 27 communities, according to Shorebank's 1993 annual report.

Registrants included institutions as big as $18 billion-asset Society National Bank, Cleveland -- where Shorebank just opened a bank -- but most were under $500 million in assets.

Monday evening through Friday, community development banking sessions covered real estate lending to rehabilitation specialists and market development and financing of small and minority-owned business. Other topics included residential real estate development, analysis of neighborhood and community markets for development opportunities, and the role of non-profit partners.

In a Tuesday session, Shorebank chairman Ronald Grzywinski stressed that community development banking is not charity. "What a good development bank does is balance financial and development objectives to achieve sustainability and provide benefits at a community level," he said.

He said the bank's narrow focus on the South Shore neighborhood has been important. "We've got a knowledge of that market that is unbeatable."

Attendees also toured the neighborhood of about 75,000 and surrounding areas.

Milton Davis, chairman of South Shore Bank and tour guide on one bus, pointed out problem areas as well as Shorebank successes, including parts of a 22-building scattered-site housing project and a successful new strip mall anchored by a Dominick's Finer Foods grocery store.

"It took us four years to convince Dominick's they should do this," he said.

Some participants in the program are in various stages of forming their own development banks, while others want to beef up community development lending activities at their banks.

Robert M. McGill expects to open a development bank, Neighborhood Bancorp in San Diego, in the first quarter of 1995. He has consulted with South Shore previously and appreciated the opportunity to meet others working on similar projects. "It's the chance to talk with like-minded people that you rarely come across," he said.

Michael Price, senior vice president of $370 million-asset First Michigan Bank, Grand Rapids, hopes to apply Shorebank's models at his bank, which has promised to infuse more than $10 million in residential mortgage lending in its community. "We know we need to look at some nontraditional ways to develop that," he said.

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