Hibernia Bank tower reopens as office, apartment building

13-month, $57.3 million renovation completed 

Largely vacant for half a decade following the dissolution of Hibernia National Bank in 2006, the high-rise home of the late financial institution has new life as offices and apartments.

HRI Properties recently wrapped up a 13-month, $57.3 million renovation of the 23-story structure with its landmark lighted cupola. The real-estate development company moved its corporate headquarters to the building, opened up additional commercial space and added 175 apartments, a pool and other amenities on the 15th floor. A CapitalOne branch still occupies the first floor.

While much of the interior of the building in the 300 block of Carondelet Street has been modernized, HRI took care to make sure many of the antique aspects remained in place, said Eddie Boettner, the developer’s chief administrative officer.

“When we do this we want to use as much of the historic fabric of the building as we can,” Boettner said.

The historic showpiece of the building that the general public can’t readily see is the board room.

The wood-paneled space with intricately carved details has not been altered since the Hibernia building opened as an office tower in 1921. The room even includes the original table, chairs and two mirrors.

“The thing that is so special is you can’t recreate this today,” Boettner said. Even if artisans could be found to do the specialized work, it likely would be too expensive to include in the overall job, he said.

Boettner said even though the building was mostly empty for several years after Hibernia’s end, it wasn’t too difficult to return the structure to commerce. CapitalOne kept open its branch in the building’s lobby and, in turn, kept utilities on inside.

“It wasn’t full of pigeons or anything like that, but it was vacant,” he said.

Josh Collen, HRI’s vice president for development, said the most difficult part of the job was the time frame in which crews had to work to complete the job.

HRI bought the building in August 2011 for $3.5 million. Work was financed through a mixture of federal and state historic tax credits, federal new markets tax credits, community development block grant funds and commercial bank construction and permanent debt.

The 175 apartments are a mix of market rate units and those for moderate income and workforce-level renters. Boettner said 100 percent of the units are rented following a crush of 1,200 people who tried to get one.

“The lease up, needless to say, was quite robust,” he said.

And though the building has a new owner and use, one thing will not change: the tradition of the cupola’s lights changing colors for special events.

CapitalOne will continue that practice, Boettner said.