Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

Fadhila Holman’s roots in Martinez run deep — members of her family were there literally at the beginning.

“Don Ygnacio Martinez was my great-great-great grandfather, and Martinez was named for him,” said Holman, who lived in Martinez for many years herself.

And she will soon be working in Martinez — again — as the CEO of the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union, which has bought the former Union Bank building at Main and Ferry streets and will move its headquarters and loan center from Berkeley in early 2021, she said.

The credit union recently sold its headquarters building on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley to the affordable housing builder Resources for Community Development, which plans to build the 87-unit Maudelle Miller Shirek Community building on that site next year.

Fadhila Holman

The credit union, Holman said, then set about looking for a new, smaller home. At least 25 were considered, she said; the former Chevy’s restaurant in Richmond’s Hilltop neighborhood was almost chosen, but ultimately rejected (that building was destroyed by fire shortly afterward, in June).

The Martinez location, Holman said, will bring the credit union closer to more of its members, who over time have “migrated” from Berkeley and environs north along Interstate Highway 80 toward Vallejo, and along state Highway 4 into Martinez, Concord and eastern Contra Costa.

“We’re seeing our members work in the Berkeley area, but they increasingly do not live in that area,” Holman said.

Cooperative Center FCU won’t leave Berkeley entirely, with a new Berkeley branch location planned at 3015 San Pablo Ave.

The move is also expected to bolster downtown Martinez, which before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March had been experiencing an increase in businesses (especially restaurants and microbreweries) opening.

“We are getting a new tenant with 20 full-time employees taking over a vacant building, which will add to the vibrancy of downtown and provide an economic boost to our businesses,” said Mayor Rob Schroder, who owns an insurance business down the street from the soon-to-be credit union building.

“We are also welcoming a community and civic-minded organization with a rich tradition of providing socially responsible banking services to individuals who may not be able to otherwise receive loans at reasonable terms from larger banks,” Schroder said.

Contractor Charles Gray shows some of the safe deposit boxes inside the main vault of the former Union Bank of California building.

Before her current stint with Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union, Holman was CEO of the former California Pacific Federal Credit Union that served the former Tesoro refinery in North Concord, and was heavily involved with both the Martinez Chamber of Commerce and the downtown business group Main Street Martinez.

She also helped create the “King of the County BBQ Challenge” competition that draws thousands to Waterfront Park over a weekend each June.

“I don’t think you can find a warmer community than Martinez,” Holman said.

The credit union’s soon-to-be new home was, starting in the 1890s, the Bank of Martinez, the first chartered in Contra Costa County. It was destroyed in a 1904 fire, and damaged in the big San Francisco earthquake two years later. More recently, after some exterior remodeling, the building had been the Union Bank of California, which left a few years ago.

Inside the building, now undergoing renovation, are sections of decorative railing/fencing with a stylized Bank of Martinez “BM” logo from many decades previous. Holman said some Bank of Martinez “branding” figures to be part of the finished design.

Charles Gray of TruEdge Builds, a Folsom-based general contractor that works with credit unions, said the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union project will mix the historical with the modern.

“There’s a lot to work with here,” said Gray, who noted some concessions to modernity, like fire sprinklers, will be required. When asked whether any surprises have come up during demolition work, Gray said, “Not yet, but they will — they always do.”

Holman said the building will definitely have a more modern feel than it used to, “and we have to figure out a way to effectively use the space.”