Historic building reimagined for Fidelity Bank HQ

Project: The renovation of a four-story building built in the 1800s that houses Fidelity Bank’s New Orleans headquarters on the second floor, a retail bank branch on the ground floor and tenant space above.

Address: 353 Carondelet St.

Owner: Fidelity Bank

Architect: Trapolin-Peer Architects

General Contractor: Ryan Gootee General Contractors

Space: 18,273 square feet

Cost: N/A

Start date: December 2019

Completion date: October 2020

The Union Savings & Loan Association Building was constructed in 1850 and designed by architect George Purves. The structure is part of a row of eight commercial buildings historically referred to as “Union Row.” The identical buildings occupy the entire west side of the 300 block of Carondelet St. between Union and Perdido Streets and were modeled after the “Washington Stores” in New York City.

The structure was redesigned in 1958 by August Perez & Associates to its current mid-century modern design. A slipcover was part of this redesign and was added to the Carondelet and Perdido St. facades, and the slipcover consists of black porcelain enamel-faced metal panels punctuated by vertical strips of aluminum windows and tan recessed spandrel panels.

The metal panels and windows were replaced due to deterioration, and new windows were added to the Carondelet Street facade to add natural light to the upper floor offices. The windows are dark-tinted to match the panels as close as possible so as not to resemble the historic aluminum windows and were designed to be the same width as the existing metal panel construction crews replaced so as to minimally impact the historic façade.

The first floor dates to the 1958 renovation and consists of a large open banking area with a curved marble clad counter, wood slat office dividers, bank vault door and terrazzo floors. Glass wall partitions were added to create offices while maintaining light distribution to the windowless center of the building.

The second floor consists of seven offices, break out workspaces, a board room and break room. The development of the office floor plan was driven by the need to provide the Fidelity Bank associates and executives with the privacy needed for day to day operation while maximizing light distribution through the space. The mix of transparent glass and solid wood veneered panels accomplished this while maintaining an executive aesthetic.

The third and fourth floor offer approximately 3,700 square feet of space each at $22 per square foot for potential office tenants. Henry Shortess of Urban Properties is handling the leasing on behalf of Fidelity Bank.

One of the challenges construction crews faced on the job included enduring six named storms this hurricane season. While none severely impacted the New Orleans area, it affected operations from the standpoint of preparation and remobilization. Hurricane Isaias was the only storm that didn’t come close, but it impacted the Connecticut home of the metal wall panel supplier.

The COVID-19 pandemic also caused some delays in the procurement process of building materials.

Trapolin-Peer Architects worked with the Louisiana Preservation Historic Office and National Park Service to add a curtain wall to the Carondelet St. façade to reimagine the office building layout which created a dark center of the building. Architects took the same width as one panel so as to not dramatically alter the nature of the historic façade and used dark shaded glass so as to blend in with the shiny black porcelain enamel panels.