In a stunning ruling that will permanently impact traffic – and property values – in the French Quarter and the surrounding CBD, the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) has declared the Hard Rock Hotel to be a “historic pile.” The landmark designation, in a relief to hard-working authorities, permanently stops all demolition and stabilization work on the partially collapsed building.
“The collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is the most significant thing to happen in the Vieux Carré in, like, lots of years,” said VCC Commissioner Dianne Cunningham. “Yes, it was tragic, but it needs to be remembered. History must be preserved. And experienced.”
Another Commissioner noted that the collapse has generated a great deal of attention on social media.
“It’s all over the YouTube and the Facebook. We don’t want to lose the youth buzz.”
Indeed, the Tourist Commission says the collapse has been a shot in the arm for disaster tourism in New Orleans.
“We haven’t seen this many people coming here to look at wrecked buildings since 2006,” said director Terry Garmin. “A 63 percent increase!”
Garmin did admit the increase is only around 25 percent when you factor out all the lawyers. The ruling means the owner of the building must preserve it in its present condition for “the enjoyment of future generations.” What future generations would “enjoy” was not spelled out. It was also not clear if the owner is still in the country. The Commission also issued a further ruling to the dangerously unstable construction crane, ordering that it remain as is and not collapse.
“If it decides to take the easy way out and collapse, we will fine the crane severely,” noted Commissioner Cunningham. “If you think we’re tough on appropriate facade colors, just wait till you see what we will do if it falls down!”
An overjoyed Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who recently announced the city was speeding up the Hard Rock collapse demolition timeline, had stated officials were shooting for a controlled implosion to take place in mid-March with debris cleanup taking another two-to-three months but will now no longer have to deal with it.
“This incredible designation helps showcase to the world just how much culture and character New Orleeeens has,” the mayor said, whose team had been working extremely hard over the last several months since the collapse happened to figure out what to do were not going to rush on a monumental decision, even if it took years.
“It is an honor to have such an important pile receive protected status whereas it will be preserved for all time so no one, not even a powerful and very, very busy mayor, ever has to decide the fate of such a historic place or do anything about it.”
Not everyone is on board with the decision. The local associations of engineers and architects are adamantly opposed.
“You can’t fight gravity. You can’t fight reality. This is dangerous, and someone could get killed,” remarked local engineer John Peril.
Cunningham replied that “you are more likely to get injured or killed walking down a French Quarter street alone at 3 am than walking past the Hard Rock at 3 pm.” The facts do seem back her up on this point. Others say this decision by the Commission just makes the case that the Commission has lost touch with reality.
“Paint colors and nice iron balconies, I can understand,” said French Quarter resident Harold Wade, “But people died here.
Cunningham responded, “Lots of people died in the Battle of New Orleans in 1915 when we defeated the Germans, and we preserved that place.”
Wade also pointed out the VCC wants to levy fines on folks on Bourbon Street for cleaning up the urine and vomit on the sidewalks outside their buildings.
“Destroying the stink of the street or some such. This has gone too far!” Cunningham did admit that later this spring, the Commission will debate “a common-sense amendment” to the Code that requires human vomit, urine, and feces anywhere in the French Quarter be left in place at least 72 hours before cleaning up, to protect “the unique visual character and memorable nasal signature of the Vieux Carré.”Human bodies were initially on the list of 72-hour protected items, but the NOPD thinks 72 hours is too short.
“We’re kinda busy here,” said Alex Reid, a spokesman for the First District.
Designated in 1936, the Vieux Carré is the second oldest historic district in the country. The Vieux Carré Commission serves as the regulatory body charged to protect, preserve, and ensure nothing ever changes by maintaining the distinct architectural, historic character, zoning integrity, and tastes of long, long-deceased ancestors of the Vieux Carré as mandated by the Louisiana State Constitution, the City Charter, the City Code, the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, and uptight blowhards. Their duties include regulating all repairs, alterations and construction that affect the exterior (whether visible from the street or not) of any building situated on private property in the French Quarter. Additionally, the VCC is authorized to charge owners with violations of the City’s regulations and to seek the correction of such infractions to the fullest extent of the law.