Hard Rock Hotel demolition still several months away

Injured Hard Rock worker faces deportation
Photo credit Thomas Perumean

The Hard Rock Hotel collapse site won't be taken down for several months.

City officials said in a Thursday update on the demolition effort that the site will remain as-is on the corner of Rampart and Canal streets for some time yet. 

New Orleans Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell said the demolition plan is "very close to being finalized" on the two-month anniversary of the collapse. 

The partially-constructed hotel collapsed Oct. 12, killing three construction workers and forcing widespread evacuations to heavily-trafficked areas.

Engineers think another collapse is still possible. That danger is slowing efforts to recover the bodies of two workers killed in the initial collapse because the bodies are believed to be on the upper floors of the structure, which are the most unstable. 

A recovery effort could destabilize the upper floors and put any involved crews in danger. 

"If you go in there and start picking through debris and cause further collapse, you put the rescuers in danger," McConnell said. 

Authorities believe they can shore up parts of the building using supports and plan to begin working on that project as soon as next week. 

The supports are similar to car jacks, which would go up floor by floor. 

That process is likely to take up to two months. After that, crews should be able to recover the two bodies. 

The building's owner, 1031 Canal Development LLC, decided against imploding the building with explosives and are instead planning to demolish the building using traditional methods. 

The new timeline will likely impact Mardi Gras parades. City officials have not given a concrete plan for the parades, but say they will have that plan finalized soon. 

Meanwhile, businesses around the collapse site are beginning to reopen. The Saenger Theater reopened Wednesday across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel in the latest example, but demolition plans could complicate that. 

McConnell warned during the news conference that the city could push the fence around the site back as they get closer to demolition. It was unclear Thursday how far out the fence could extend and what impact that would have on nearby businesses.