Officials say hotel implosion is sign of progress for New Orleans

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by MONICA HERNANDEZ

WWL-TV

Posted on July 22, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 22 at 9:08 PM

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans skyline was changed forever on Sunday morning.

After months of planning, the former Grand Palace Hotel collapsed on itself in less than 10 seconds. It's a historic milestone, and a major undertaking for the city and state.

It started with a series of loud pops, an eruption of 1300 explosive charges. And in a matter of seconds, the 17-story Grand Palace Hotel burst into a plume of dust. Just as officials had planned, it collapsed away from the interstate.

A pile of twisted metal is all that's left. Officials said it will take a few months to tear down, as opposed to a year and a half if crews had taken the hotel apart piece by piece.

"I thought it was cool," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "When the thing happened I thought it was amazing because you don't get to see that every now and then. But it was really exciting to watch."

"I thought this was an amazing event, this is so much hard work, people don't realize how much planning and orchestration and inter-agency cooperation goes into a big demolition event like this," said Trooper Nick Manale, a spokesman for state police.

Authorities said months of planning and coordination paid off. Interstate 10 reopened in just under three hours after the state cleared light debris and made sure it wasn't damaged. Once the dust settled, air quality reports were good. And the city said evacuations — both mandatory and voluntary — went smoothly.

Still, workers spent hours clearing metal beams that fell onto Claiborne Avenue at Canal Street. City officials said that had not been unexpected.

All of it, officials said, is a sign of progress as they make way for the new University Medical Center.

"I think it's huge, when you think of it symbolically, it's tearing down an old structure to give way to build something new," said Landrieu.

"Now that this building is down, we can really start making a lot of progress on the site. You'll see hundreds if not thousands of people coming to work here every day. So this is a very important day for us on the hospital project," said Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the state of Louisiana's office of the commissioner. "And one that we've worked on for a very long time."

A long time coming as the city continues to build itself back in hopes of being better than before.

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