UPDATE: ‘Single building does not define our beautiful city,’ mayor says

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

It is likely the Capital One Tower will be demolished well ahead of November.

That’s the deadline the city of Lake Charles gave building owner Hertz Investment Group to restore or get rid of the icon turned eyesore.

“We knew renovating this massive structure would be a monumental task, and this is why we injected ourselves into the insurance litigation, to protect the interests of locals,” said Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter.

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Setting a deadline wasn’t the only protection. The city also insisted upon $7 million from the insurance settlement being set aside in an escrow account in case Hertz did not take care of the demolition or restoration.

On Tuesday Louisiana Radio Communications employees were working to come up with a plan for relocating some of the communications equipment now located atop the 22-story, 375-foot structure built in 1983, which has been known as the Calcasieu Marine, Hibernia and the Capital One Tower.

Perry Vincent, LRC owner, said the roof of the building is home to communications equipment that benefits internet connectivity, cellular service, broadcast stations, civil air patrol operations, HAM radio operations, and oil and gas and petrochemical industry communication. That equipment will have to be relocated and the timetable for doing so has been moved up. Vincent hates to lose what was not only the city’s most iconic building, but a vital communication point.

“What was nice about that building,” Vincent said, “was that rain or shine, a repair person could gain access to the equipment that needed service, troubleshoot the problem and return immediately after the weather event was over to make the necessary repairs. You can’t climb towers in the rain.”

The first phase of an asbestos study has been completed, one of two required to demolish the building, according to Bob Schlogel, Hertz vice president of capital projects and engineering. Bids have been received for an implosion-style demolition.

Louisiana Radio Communications handles applications of wireless communications including sales, service, warranty, two-way radio systems, design and construction of wireless computer networks, antenna systems, tower sales service and erection, fiber optics, voice and data installation.

The tower was damaged by Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020. Hertz told the city it wanted to repair the tower in June 2022. More time was needed to settle with its insurance company. A construction company was hired to begin work. Then work stopped. After Hertz received its insurance settlement, it was announced in March 2023 that the building was on the market.

“We visited and cooperated with multiple parties who were interested in rehabilitating the building,” Hunter said. “Ultimately, the economics in a post-COVID environment just may not work out. Seeing this building torn down would be sad for some, but three and a half years in its current state is long enough. A single building does not define our beautiful city. Ultimately, it is better for the building to be gone than to linger any longer in its current state.”