Wikimedia Commons/Infrogmation, Perez APC

Developers hoping to save an Edward Durell Stone tower want to build a "tribute" tourist trap next door.

The property at 2 Canal Street has been languishing along the New Orleans Skyline since the late 1990s. Still vacant after a few failed attempts by the city to redevelop it, the old tower may soon get a facelift, just in time for the city's 300th birthday in 2018. And it would come with a new gondola roller coaster next door.

One the finalists in the city's latest request for proposals for 2 Canal Street announced late last week that it's teaming up with US Thrill Rides to build a "Tricentennial Tower" next door if its redevelopment proposal is chosen. That's the same company behind Orlando's plans for a skyscraper roller coaster anchored by the "World’s Largest Perkins® Restaurant & Bakery."

It's yet another twist in a long effort to save 2 Canal Street. Designed by modernist architect Edward Durell Stone, the 33-story tower debuted in 1967 as a giant compass of sorts, its four "wings," according to Docomomo, aligned with the cardinal directions. Stone's son, Hicks Stone, has previously said, "if they [New Orleans] demolish father’s building, they are destroying the best contemporary high-rise that they have."

(Perez, APC)

City officials have been especially eager to find new suitors for the tower since the World Trade Center New Orleans moved out in 2011. (A rooftop bar closed first, in 2005.) In 2013, a round of proposals for redevelopment included a group of New Orleans tourism organizations who planned to demolish the tower and replace it with an "iconic" new one. The city picked a different group, which offered to spend $190 million to preserve 2 Canal Street—proposing to turn it into apartments and a W hotel. Talks, however, ended on a sour note, with both sides failing to come to terms on money. Another RFP was issued last October.

The latest proposal, by Two Canal Street Investors, includes a luxury hotel and revolving rooftop jazz club for $228 million. In addition, and on top of those costs, would come a new development next door, the Tricentennial Tower, which would look a lot like its half-century-old neighbor. Renderings depict a tower base with four wings and a circular observation deck that goes out of its way to reference Stone's design.

(Perez, APC)

If city officials do choose TCSI's project, the tower will feature local architecture firm Perez's second New Orleans gondola project. Former firm president, the late August Perez III, headed the design and planning behind the United States' first gondola transit system (Mississippi Aerial Rapid Transit), which debuted in 1984. Built to shuttle Louisiana World Exposition visitors and local commuters over the Mississippi River, MART ran out of money quickly, shutting down in 1985 and defaulting on an $8 million loan before U.S. marshals seized the remains of the system and put it up for auction.

News footage from when August Perez III's dream of a gondola aerial transit network came true—and before it all fell apart.

This gondola project would be far less ambitious. Gondolas would glide on a roller-coaster track around the 320-foot-tall tower, and take riders to and from an observation deck with a restaurant and a "New Orleans 360 Interactive Experience."

If the real world is at Peak Ferris Wheel, the Internet has to be nearing Peak Gondola. But a gondola roller coaster, if built, is at least an upgrade in view-seeking gimmickry. Gliding up, down, and around in a double-helix tower is way more fun than a slow, jerky lap around a wheel. Most importantly, it'd help add new life to a struggling but significant neighbor.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: An elderly resident of a village in Japan's Gunma Prefecture.
    Life

    In Japan’s Vanishing Rural Towns, Newcomers Are Wanted

    Facing declining birthrates and rural depopulation, hundreds of “marginal villages” could vanish in a few decades. But some small towns are fighting back.

  2. People handle guns on display at a show in Las Vegas.
    Life

    The 3 Gun-Control Laws That Work Best in the U.S.

    States with stricter gun-control laws have fewer homicides, especially when they’re used in combination, according to a new study.

  3. Design

    Inside the Controversy Over Rebuilding an Iconic Berlin Store

    The Karstadt department store in Kreuzberg was once an architectural marvel. Local officials say a new plan to bring it back would worsen gentrification.

  4. audience members at venue
    Life

    What Early-Career Income Volatility Means for Your Middle-Aged Brain

    A long-term study of people in four cities finds that income volatility in one’s 20s and 30s correlates with negative brain effects in middle age.

  5. photo: Helsinki's national library
    Design

    How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

    Finland’s most ambitious library has a lofty mission, says Helsinki’s Tommi Laitio: It’s a kind of monument to the Nordic model of civic engagement.

×