Errol LabordeOnce again the name Roosevelt will be part of the New Orleans hotel scene – and there’s even more good news about the rebirth of the city’s most historic hotel.
Last month in my Streetcar column, I presented a wish list to the operators of the Waldorf=Astoria. The company, which is owned by Hilton Hotels, will be managing the Fairmont Hotel (once known as the Roosevelt) that has been closed since Katrina. In the column I expressed concern about keeping the Sazerac bar, the Blue Room, the murals and the Christmas decorations. A similar plea was made in this magazine’s Web newsletter.
Fortune smiled. I heard from Shirley Walker, the vice-president of design and purchasing for Dimension Development Co., Inc., the company that acquired the hotel. More on Dimension later – because there’s a real surprise – but first here are some scoops:
First of all, the name. It will be called: The Roosevelt – A Waldorf=Astoria Hotel.
How about the Blue Room? Plans are to return it as a nightclub. One idea, (though nothing is confirmed) is to work out an arrangement with Harrah’s casino bringing in entertainers to perform in the Blue Room as well as in the (yet to be reopened) theater atop the former Hotel Monaco, now the Hilton St. Charles, which was also re-developed by Dimension.
And the Sazerac bar? They will bring it back and, of course, Sazeracs will be served. I re-entered my plea that the curved banquette sofa be returned. (Prior to the hurricane they had been replaced by tables.) Walker wasn’t certain about the condition of the banquettes.
How about the Paul Ninas murals in the bar? They have survived and will return. Another mural, a travel-related one at the University Place end of the lobby has been uncovered but will need some work.
Will the Sazerac restaurant return? Yes, but most likely as late hour casual dining. The site of the former Bailey’s at the Baronne Street side will be made into a fine dining restaurant.
What is the condition of the lobby? Surprisingly in good shape.
How many guest rooms will there be? Uncertain because some existing rooms were tiny and will have to be enlarged. There will be at least 500.
And the Christmas decorations? They will return.
Now a word about Dimension, the development company. That word: “Wow!” Dimension is developing hotels throughout the country and recently won an award from Hilton for its conversion of the Hotel Monaco. A company like this, one would suspect, would be headquartered in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York where the big hotels are. Nope. It is based in Natchitoches, LA.
According to Walker, Company President Sam Friedman – the son of a former state legislator – has a passion for the state and really wanted to do something for New Orleans. “I don’t think he would have gotten involved in a project like the Fairmont for any other city but New Orleans,” Walker told me.
So here it is, a Louisiana company coming to the rescue of a landmark hotel and carrying the flag of a prestigious New York Hotel. I would drink to that – if only I could find a good Sazerac.