NEW ORLEANS — The old hotel at Chef Menteur Highway and Interstate 10 in New Orleans East was literally once something to write home about, as postcards from the era that featured the then-new building show.
But that was long ago.
These days, the nine-story hotel is a canvas for graffiti artists. Its swimming pool sits still and stagnant, and someone has already ripped off and tossed aside boards from a new fence.
Soon, though, things should change.
City Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen said Peter Gardner, the building's owner, is getting the final pieces of financing together to renovate the old hotel.
"I'm very confident. The property owner and all the partners he's brought to the table have been very upfront, engaging with us, have kept my office in touch and updated on where he's at," Nguyen said.
Plans were literally on the drawing board Monday, but John Williams, the architect for the project, said that once the city gives some final approvals, work will start.
And while it might not seem like it in a city as old as New Orleans, the hotel is now on the National Register of Historic Places because of its mid-century design.
"One of the big architectural features that gives it that unique style is those breeze-through blocks which right now are tagged,” said Andy Stephens, the project manager.
The historic designation will help get tax credits to offset the cost of work, but it also presents a few unique challenges.
“We have to abide by all the standards the National Parks Service sets because it's a federal historic tax credit,” Williams said.
When the building first opened as a Holiday Inn, it had more than 200 guestrooms. Plans now call for about 150 rooms, and it could be a hotel or apartments. There will also be commercial space on the ground floor.
For Nguyen, anything is better than what it is now given its high-profile location along I-10.
“It's going to tell the entire city of New Orleans — it's going to tell the entire country — that … the East is back on track,” Nguyen said.