I’d just voted in Louisiana’s primary on October 12, 2019 and was ‘makin’ groceries’ (as the saying goes around here) at the Rouses in the Quarter when I overheard a harrowing discussion concerning a building that had just collapsed. After nosing my way into the conversation, I discovered the building in question was the Hard Rock Hotel that’s been under construction at the prominent Canal and Rampart intersection for basically the entire time I’ve lived here (since January 2018). It was only blocks from the Rouses, so I did a quick drive-by on my way home: sure enough, the top floors looked like the site of an industrial avalanche, with two enormous cranes perched precariously atop the wreckage.
Over the coming days we’d learn that three construction workers died in the collapse, with the bodies of two irretrievable for months as the structure was so unstable. (At the time of writing this, December 2019, I’m still unsure if they’ve been recovered.) Performances of the Broadway musical Wicked, which was playing at the historic Saenger Theater just across the street, were cancelled, as were all other scheduled performances lest the remains of the hotel complete their collapse onto a building full of theatergoers. Rumors swirled: the Office of Zoning and Permits had already been under federal investigation and shoddy permits are sure to turn up; the collapse happened when they tried installing the rooftop pool; et cetera. (The first I believe to be true. The second… not so sure.)
More pressingly, a tropical storm loomed and they needed to do something about those dangerous cranes. (Then the storm passed before they’d done anything about the cranes, but they still really needed to do something about them.) Just over a week of careful planning later, the city hoisted workers up in the basket of a third crane to affix explosives to the structures, intending to bring them straight down in a controlled demolition. The operation was ostensibly a success, but a piece of one crane pierced itself meters deep into Rampart Street, and a piece of the other seems to still dangle uncertainly over Canal. The busy intersection at the heart of the city has been closed for over two months now, affecting downtown traffic just as you might imagine. Contracts have been issued to get the cleanup underway and the Saenger has re-opened, but I expect a good portion of 2020 will be spent with this wreckage as part of our skyline.
I was able to get photos both before and after the cranes were exploded: