NEW ORLEANS -- Long a sight of blight in the heart of the Central Business District, the former NOPSI building reopens this week as the NOPSI Hotel.
The building at 317 Baronne St. opened in 1927. It fell into disrepair after New Orleans Public Service Inc., which used to oversee the city’s gas and electric service and public transportation, became Entergy New Orleans and spun off the transportation arm as the Regional Transit Authority in the 1980s.
Until restoration work began, the building was boarded up, often displayed graffiti and smelled of mildew and mold.
Now, though, a multimillion dollar renovation has restored the 90-year-old structure to its original glory, including vaulted ceiling and ornamental columns in the lobby where generations of locals went to pay their electric and gas bills. The operators have also gathered NOPSI memorabilia and paraphernalia from locals and other collectors to display in the former office building.
The 217-room luxury hotel also will bring life back to a block of Baronne that was otherwise dead. On Sunday, workers painted gold trim by hand on the building and a NOPSI manhole cover outside the front door.
The hotel opens to the public at 3 p.m. Thursday, and once inside, visitors will find a look totally different from the days the building housed offices for the utility company.
In the lobby, a bar called underCURRENT will open onto a patio at the corner of Baronne and Union streets.
A rooftop bar and pool called Above the Grid will be the latest rooftop space in the CBD, and a restaurant called Public Service will operate in an adjoining building.
The Dryades Ballroom, will serve as an event space in another connected building at Union Street and O’Keefe Avenue. The centerpiece of the ballroom is a crane 24 feet above the floor that was used to move storage vaults for repairs.
The NOPSI hotel is the latest among a number of hotel and residential projects in the CBD.
The Aloft Hotel opened a block away in another formerly abandoned high rise. Also nearby, the former Rault Center opened as the Troubadour Hotel. Next to that, the historic Pythian Building is being renovated an apartment building with a ground-floor food hall.
Not too far away, construction continues on The Standard, the latest building to rise in the South Market District.