Katrina-Flooded Hotel Reopens in New Orleans
By Ashley Nanco | Online Only | June 18, 2009
Back from the dead after being flooded by Hurricane Katrina and abandoned by its former owners in 2005, the Roosevelt Hotel will reopen in New Orleans next month as a Waldorf-Astoria Collection hotel.
After 18 months and a $145 million meticulous restoration that made the project one of the largest private investments in downtown New Orleans, the Roosevelt will reopen its doors on July 1, 2009.
"It's a big morale booster for the city. People seem to really love the place," says Walter Gallas, director of the New Orleans Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Hurricane Katrina flooded the basement of the hotel with 10 feet of water, destroying all of its mechanical systems. Several of the guest rooms were also underwater from the storm's wind-driven rain.
Everything from the chandeliers to the first-class accommodations has been restored. "It was a really top-to-bottom project that included some additions," says Mark Wilson, director of marketing and sales for the Roosevelt. "All that was left [after Katrina] were the bones, or skeleton, of the building. All the vital organs have been redone, including signage on the building. It has been restored to the original grandeur of the hotel as it was last seen."
The hotel originally opened in 1893 as the Grunewald. In 1923, it was renamed the Roosevelt in respect to President Theodore Roosevelt, once a frequent visitor. It was during this time that the hotel established itself as an icon of luxury in the South; in 1965, it was rebranded as the Fairmont.
Following the Fairmont's closing in 2005, the property was purchased by Dimension Development Company for $17 million, which undertook the restoration with help from historic tax credits and special financing benefits from Hurricane Katrina, Wilson says.
Crucial to the hote's rebirth is the reopening of the famous Blue Room and Sazerac Bar. The Blue Room, which hosted Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett, will once again host live entertainment.
"It's bringing back one of the historical icons of the city," Wilson says. "This is a city that really appreciates its history, and over the years a lot of businesses have gone away. For this hotel to be knocked down by Katrina and four years later come back with the name Roosevelt. It means a lot, emotionally, culturally, and socially. It's an emotional issue for the community to see it come back. It means a lot to New Orleans."
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