An order to demolish the Hard Rock Hotel and several historic buildings adjacent structures was issued Tuesday by New Orleans Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell.
The order comes as the June 1 start of hurricane season approaches and amid public pressure towards city officials to take immediate action to retrieve two dead bodies still trapped inside the collapsed hotel.
The hotel’s upper floors collapsed on the morning of Oct. 12, killing three construction workers Jose Ponce Arreola, Quinnyon Wimberly and Anthony Magrette.
The bodies of Arreola and Wimberly have remain trapped inside the condemned structure for more than six months as the city and 1031 Canal St., the hotel’s developers, have deferred responsibility to each other for the demolition of the building.
“These orders were posted under the authority of our Superintendent with my support, clearing the way for the Hard Rock site to be demolished,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “We have issued a conditional permit which gives 1031 what they need to move forward.
“I do not want to take the families of the victims through any more obstacles to get this building taken down,” she said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is to retrieve the remains of our people.”
An independent analysis submitted by the developers confirmed the need to demolish the adjacent structures at 1022 Iberville Street and 1019, 1027 and 1027 Canal streets in order to safely level the Hard Rock Hotel, according to city spokeswoman LaTonya Norton.
Applications to demolish the adjacent structures were filed by the developers for consideration before the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission on Wednesday, but the applications were withdrawn due to McConnell’s order.
HDLC staff previously recommended the commission deny the demo applcations for the buildings located at 1019-1025 and 1027 Canal streets due to their historical significance, but the emergency order declared on the Hard Rock structure allows McConnell to override the commission’s decision.
The demolition plans call for the Hard Rock to be demolished piecemeal using cranes and the bodies could be retrieved in about 30 days, according to The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate.
“The proximity of the nearby historic structures, narrowness of Iberville Street and distance of the collapsed building from Burgundy Street require precise positioning of demolition cranes within the footprint of the four adjacent structures if the collapsed building is to be safety demolished,” McConnell wrote in his order.
“Should a major storm strike the city during the upcoming hurricane season, the risk of further collapse of the unsafe and unstable structure would be greatly exacerbated,” McConnell said.
Read the full order: