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Highrise Hijinks

In Search of Peace

Anyone who knows me knows I have an unsettling familiarity with and unbridled enthusiasm for profanity. And lately, I have been letting it fly. I have been dropping G-bombs like there’s no tomorrow. Because, who knows: Maybe there won’t be.
I drop the G word into random conversations with strangers. I’ve ruined more than one social occasion by its profligate use. I have fractured relationships and alienated friends. Hell, even my kids have heard me spit it out so suddenly and vehemently as to cause them to cower over their supper dishes.

Gentrification. There, I said it. Judge me as you wish.

Saying the G word in public in New Orleans is the verbal equivalent of farting in an elevator. No one knows how to respond. People squirm uncomfortably. Eye contact is astutely avoided.

It is an incendiary term in a city that clings to the established historical order with maniacal intensity. You know that saying: The past is prologue? In New Orleans, the past is prolonged.

Most debates of this most divisive topic around here seem to center on the French Quarter, the Marigny and the ever evolving regeneration of the Bywater. But a stroll around the CBD makes clear that the final lost battleground is rising before our eyes, brick by brick, crane by crane, condo by condo.

At the corner of Canal and Rampart Streets, the new Hard Rock Hotel is reaching into the sky. When it opens in 2019, the hotel’s website promises a structure of “historical reverence and ambitious modernity.”

That’s not all! “As an added bonus, guests can indulge VIP services typically reserved for musical legends on the 8th floor Rock and Royalty Level & Lounge.”

Let me get this right: A hotel floor that has not yet been built is already noted for its “A List” celeb sightings?

Moving across Canal into the heart of the CBD, the new Ace Hotel is where actual A Listers congregate, at least according to its website. “The hotel is famous for its trendy clientele, so expect to meet a lot of tattooed creative types wearing black jeans.”

And the hotel boasts its New Orleans cred, adding that its mini bars are stocked with Zapp’s potato chips.

Mother of God. I have no words.

Moving along now, to the Uptown end of the CBD, which has now been rebranded as South Market District by developers desperately seeking identity, the fabled and legendary Standard, and the Odeon restaurant, are both nearing completion out near Howard Avenue.

At least, they are both fabled and legendary in New York City, where the Standard Hotel is the epitome of moneyed hipster chic, and the Odeon was once so cool that its image was on the cover of the quintessential 1980s novel “Bright Lights, Big City,” which documented the wasted days and nights of Gen-Xers in the way Kerouac did for the Beats or Fitzgerald did for the Lost Generation.

Except with a lot more cocaine.

Noticeably and notably absent from this ambitiously modern but historically reverent architectural landscape and reshaping of the New Orleans skyline into a shining new Gotham, is the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

Remember that one?

In the summer of 2005, the Trump Organization announced the forthcoming groundbreaking of what would become, at 70-stories high, not only the tallest building in New Orleans, but tallest building on the Gulf Coast outside of Houston.

That’s right: The hugest.

Not only would the Trump International Hotel and Tower be the tallest building in the state of Louisiana, it would be taller than the state itself! After Delaware and Florida, Louisiana has the lowest high point in the United States.

At an underwhelming 535 feet above sea level, the peak of diminutive Driskill Mountain – just a stone’s throw away from where Bonnie and Clyde met their ignominious demise on a lonely roadside in Bienville Parish – would have been nearly 300 feet lower than the Trump Tower, if you include the decorative spire atop the building, which Trump did.

After repeated construction delays, sketchy financing deals and unfulfilled promises, the Trump Tower project collapsed in 2011 and the property was foreclosed by the city.

To think: New Orleans could truly have been America’s proverbial bright shining city on a hill. Except without the hill.
Benny Grunch and the Bunch immortalized New Orleans’ lost treasures and beloved institutions with their signature anthem,

“Ain’t Dere No More.” Maybe the song merits a sequel.

Weren’t Never Dere.

 


 

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