Plans to demolish two historic French Quarter buildings adjacent to the condemned Hard Rock Hotel are recommended for denial when the matter goes before the Center Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission, which is slated to hear the matter at its scheduled meeting on Wednesday.
The applications request approval to level three buildings located at 1019-1025 Canal St, 1027 Canal St. and 1022 Iberville St., whose owner seeks to raze the structures in order to “safely” demolish its other property, the partially-collapsed Hard Rock Hotel.
The buildings owner, 1031 Canal St. LLC, was developing the Hard Rock before its upper floors collapsed on Oct. 12, 2019, killing three construction workers Anthony Magrette, Jose Ponce Arreola, Quinnyon Wimberly and injuring dozens more.
Both New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the hotel’s developers have faced mounting pressure to retrieve the bodies of Wimberly and Arreola, which remained trapped inside the rubble.
District officials recommended that the commission deny applications for two of the buildings — located at 1019-1025 Canal St. and 1027 Canal St. — due to their historical significance and good structural conditions, according to staff reports.
A third demolition application for a two-story vacant office building at 1022 Iberville St. was recommended for approval.
Commissioners will ultimately vote to approve or deny the applications at their scheduled meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and can be viewed remotely online.
The buildings, which were constructed over a hundred years ago but still retain their integrity, played roles in development of city’s jazz and theater scenes during the early 20th century, according to staff reports, which also noted that renovation was not considered as part of the demolition plans.
“Staff has concerns about the precedent that would be set by the demolition of [these] structures, as well as the effect on the character of the historic Canal Street that would result with future large scale developments,” the reports said.
“Unless the applicant can sufficiently demonstrate that all options have been exhausted and the safe demolition of 1031 Canal St. is impossible using other means, staff recommends denial of the demolition request[s].”
One notable tenant in the 1019-1025 Canal St. building was the “No Name Theater,” which featured vaudeville acts and some of the earliest motion pictures.
Jazz and ragtime musicians were also featured at the building, which was once considered as a potential National Historic Landmark in 1993.
Because the building still retains some original features, such as its 1920s cornice with decorative grilles on the parapet, the report suggested that other historic features can be preserved.
Replacing the building would be a “difficulty” and “impossibility” because of its design, according to the report.
“The building has links to the city’s rich jazz culture and history that deserve further exploration,” staff wrote.
Similarly, the 1027 Canal St. building edifice was modified with several features, such as the Art Deco exterior that was included around the same time Rubinstein’s opened in the 1930s.
The building once housed the Alamo Theater, which served as a venue for early motion pictures, live bands and was also considered for historic landmark status, according to the staff report.