The Capital One Tower, with its shimmering emerald windows, has stood tall against the downtown skyline in Lake Charles for nearly 40 years, a commanding presence with American flags fluttering in the breeze at its side and people bustling in and out of the building each day.
A landmark in the city since being completed in 1982, the 22-story structure took a huge hit from Hurricane Laura, which blew out most of those distinctive windows and destroyed the south side of the building, leaving it looking bedraggled and forlorn, especially now with its boarded-up windows.
Bits of the shiny green glass that were blasted from the building’s windows were scattered as far as the seawall and pieces can still be found today, glittering in the dirt and grass surrounding the area, an ongoing reminder of Mother Nature’s wrath, which continued a few weeks later with Hurricane Delta.
A local group, Picking up the Pieces, began salvaging as much as it could of the glass, slowly turning devastation into hope as it created necklaces, bracelets and works of art. By selling some pieces and auctioning off others, the group raised considerable funds to help with hurricane relief.
The city’s only skyscraper, the building has had several names over the years, starting with the CM Tower, for Calcasieu Marine National Bank, then renamed the Hibernia Tower after Hibernia purchased Calcasieu Marine. It was then changed to Capital One Tower after Capital One Bank acquired Hibernia National Bank in 2005.
The tower also sustained heavy damage in 2005 by Hurricane Rita.
With a value of about $65 million, Capital One Tower is owned by the Hertz Investment Group.
In 2007, the facility underwent major repairs and security upgrades such as the addition of ballistic protection of the exterior glass walls. There was a reconstruction of the lower floors as well as renovations of the atrium, tower facade and major tenant spaces.
Mayor Nic Hunter talked about the building in a recent Facebook post, saying he had recently had the opportunity to visit with the owners of the tower.
“It was a positive and productive meeting,” Hunter said. “They did have insurance on the building and, like so many others, they are still going through that claim process with their insurer. The owners’ intent is to revitalize the structure. As if we needed another reminder of how severe Hurricane Laura was, they told me that after Hurricane Katrina, none of the buildings they owned in New Orleans took even a third of the damage the Capital One Tower sustained after Hurricane Laura.”
Hunter said he tried to impress upon the owners how much the building means to Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana. “The building is the first major urban landmark people see when they enter Louisiana on I-10,” Hunter said. “This building is a major component of Lake Charles’ skyline and downtown synergy. Most importantly, I let them know that my administration understands their need for further time to allow the insurance process to play out, but also that we cannot allow that building to exist the way it looks today for an extended period of time.”
A representative of Hertz Investment Group did not respond to a phone message from the American Press for a comment in regards to specific plans for the building’s future.