Former Union Savings building to become Fidelity Bank HQ

New Orleans-based Fidelity Bank is moving its corporate headquarters from the 27th floor of Place St. Charles to a historic building in the Central Business District, bank officials said Wednesday.

The bank plans to purchase the building at 353 Carondelet St., which was formerly occupied by the old Union Savings & Loan. In July 2018, New Orleans-based Union Savings and Loan Association merged with Hibernia Bancorp Inc. in a deal valued at about $28.2 million.

Fidelity Bank will acquire the building from Mary Martin Roth, Richard Roth and Katherine and Tony Gelderman.

Fidelity plans a $10 million renovation that will use $1.8 million in federal and state historic tax credits. The restoration of the four-story building will also include the bank’s 17th branch location.

Bank officials say the project will create 125 construction jobs. Metairie-based Ryan Gootee General Contractors is the general contractor on the project. The architect is New Orleans-based Trapolin-Peer. Both specialize in historic renovations.

The building was constructed in 1850 and designed by architect George Purves. It’s part of a row of eight commercial buildings historically referred to as Union Row. The structure was redesigned in 1958 by August Perez & Associates to its current mid-century modern design. It has been unoccupied for two years.

Renovations are expected to be completed late next summer. Fidelity will relocate its corporate headquarters from Place St. Charles to the second floor at 353 Carondelet. The first floor will serve as a new full-service bank branch.

Chris Ferris, president and CEO of Fidelity Bank, said he looks forward to owning a permanent space for its corporate headquarters. He said the intent is “to be respectful of the mid-century design and to preserve the cultural history while moving forward with a new modern facility featuring the industry’s latest technological tools.”

Ferris said the move shows their commitment to New Orleans and the Gulf South, as well as their 350 employees.

He said the new location has great access and visibility, placed in the heart of the CBD. He said the mid-rise bank provides them with the opportunity to grow with 18,000 square feet.

The bank will occupy the first and second floors initially. He said they plan to add clients and eventually expand to the third and fourth floors.

Ferris said what makes downtown bank locations still desirable in the modern age is that clients still want the ability to have a conversation with bankers, especially for complex needs. He said he’s also seeing clients who are victims of fraud want to speak face-to-face with bank officials, rather than handle the issue over the phone.

“People still want to know you’re there,” Ferris said. “There is some security and strength in seeing a visible building that has the company’s name on it. We are here. We are stable, and we want to help. From a marketing perspective it really does mean something to the communities we serve.”

Tammy O’Shea, senior vice president and corporate brand manager, said the bank has held focus groups and learned that younger clients also want a brick-and-mortar location.

“The truth of the matter is when (millennials) are opening their first account with an institution or their first mortgage or are encountering a problem, they do feel like they want to go into a bank and talk to a person,” she said.

Richard Roth, owner of the property and developer and president of RAMM Real Estate, said in a news release that he appreciates the uniqueness of the building featuring a mid-century design.

Tony Gelderman, co-owner and president of KCT Real Estate Ventures, said that 47 years ago his family was new to New Orleans, and Fidelity financed their first home for his mother.

“This new headquarters signals that they will be doing the same for generations ahead,” Gelderman said in a statement.

Founded in 1908,  Fidelity Bank has $800 million in assets and serves communities throughout Southeast Louisiana.