FORT LAUDERDALE, FL-In one fell swoop, BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc. just may have laid the keystone for long-term growth by announcing plans Monday to acquire Community Savings Bankshares Inc., a competing bank holding company.

The estimated value of the stock-swap deal is $170 million.

The Fort Lauderdale-based diversified banking and real estate services operation would quickly gain a firmer foothold in the fast-growing Treasure Coast counties of Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach by offering shareholders in the North Palm Beach-based bank holding company $19 per common share.

By acquiring the assets of Community Savings, the BankAtlantic banking operation would become the largest Florida-based financial institution, with anticipated assets of $5.7 billion, $3.1 billion in deposits and 82 branch operations.

What is not so apparent is the acquisition’s potential impact on real estate development in a region that has one of the fastest-growing populations in the state.

Besides its increasing focus on commercial and multifamily real estate lending, BankAtlantic Bancorp also operates Core Communities and Levitt Corp., parent of Levitt & Sons, one of the nation’s oldest homebuilders, and newly formed Levitt Commercial, a commercial real estate development company.

Also prior to the announced acquisition, Community Savings had reported an increased focus on real estate lending practices, including home mortgages, residential construction, land acquisition, multifamily, commercial and non-residential construction. Total real estate loans increased by 86.4% to $735 million as of Dec. 31, 2000, up from $394 million over of the same period in 1996.

“Community’s strong mortgage lending and residential construction franchise complements our core areas of expertise in commercial and real estate financing and our profile as the leading community bank in our markets,” Alan B. Levan, BankAtlantic chairman and chief executive officer, says in a prepared statement.. “Its branch network…(also is)…in very close proximity to our four Levitt & Sons active adult communities and our two master-planned communities, presenting a greater opportunity for additional synergies.”

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