August 13, 2007

Developer Proposes Tearing Down Woolworth's Building on Canal St.

To construct a parking garage and apartments:
Metairie developer Mohan Kailas, in plans filed with the New Orleans Industrial Development Board, is proposing building two towers on either side of the old NOPSI building at 317 Baronne St. Separately, Kailas is planning to build a 550-space parking garage and a 200-foot apartment tower at the site of the closed Woolworth building at 1031 Canal St., which would be demolished to make way for the new structure.

During the 1960s the Woolworth building was the site of numerous sit-ins organized by civil rights workers attempting to end the city's segregation of lunch counters. Some of the original stools and counters are in storage and would be used in the project to memorialize the site's significance in the civil rights movement, Kailas said.
A picture of the Woolworth's counter and interesting history about the building's construction from Blake Pontchartrain:
The next year, 1939, saw the construction of another in the F.W. Woolworth 5-and-10-cent-store chain. But the building of this store created quite a disturbance among preservationists. You see, the store was built between 1031-1041 Canal St., and in order to do this many old buildings had to be demolished. But these were not just any old buildings. The area was the gateway to the famous Tango Belt area.

Located in the French Quarter just across Basin and North Rampart streets from Storyville, the Tango Belt was practically the center of nightlife in New Orleans in the first two decades of the 20th century. There you could find many cabarets, saloons, nightclubs, and theaters where jazz flourished. One of the buildings that was destroyed had housed the Arlington Cabaret. once operated by Tom Anderson, a state legislator and prominent political leader who was also known as the unofficial Mayor of Storyville.


Cero said...

What do you think of the plan?

m.d. said...

I don't know too much about the plan.

I drive by the building every now and then, but I don't really know what condition it is in. I wanted to drive by there today and take a look. But I didn't.

Having said that, I don't want it to be demolished. But I haven't really investigated why I feel that way.

Cero said...

Yeah. Well - it's historic, and it's one of the few buildings left that is or was a regular business, not entertainment or tourism oriented, and the new construction sounds awful, so I don't want it demolished, either. But I'm not sure what to suggest or how far this plan is along.

The German said...

I don't know that I like the idea of a parking garage right on Canal Street. But that location is on the edge of the Quarter and getting close to Iberville. Still it has to be prime real estate. Woolworth's has been closed for quite some time and no developer has shown interest in the property. So you have to ask, is an empty building better than a parking lot? I don't know.

Funny that when it was built in 1939, people complained that they demolished historic buildings. The more things change, the more they stay the same.