NEW ORLEANS - A year and a half after a six-alarm fire nearly burned down two historic buildings on Canal Street in New Orleans, their charred remains stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of the city's busy tourist corridor.

The buildings at 1012 and 1016 Canal appear no closer to being rebuilt then the day they caught fire in January 2016.

Dominick Sgro is an artist with Big Easy Tattoos next door.

"Before the Mardi Gras hit, they started doing some work," Sgro said. "It seemed to all come to a screeching halt. They slapped some paint on the boarding, but it doesn't last, somebody spray paints over it."

Sgro added, "Something like this, an eyesore, it almost looks like we're not in business."

Thursday, Lamonte and Lynita Hamilton, visitors from St. Louis, walked by the charred properties.

"That's not acceptable in any city, I don't think," Lamonte Hamilton said. "You always want to see your city improved."

"It does give the city a view that maybe it's going down," Lynita Hamilton said. "You want your city to be a place that people want to come to, so you want to make it look like it's coming up, not going down."

The owners of 1016 Canal did not return phone calls seeking comment on the status of the building.

The owner of 1012 Canal said the building is a work in progress, but gave no details.

Denise Przybylowski now lives in Tampa, Florida, but her father once owned a restaurant on Canal Street.
She says this isn't the same downtown she remembers.

"When I came back and I saw all the homelessness, all the abandoned buildings we both got really teary-eyed about it," Pryzbylowski said. "This is a great tourist spot, but people are afraid to come here once you look at stuff like this."

There is better news on two other landmark properties.

Work to transform the old World Trade Center into a Four Seasons Hotel is finally set to begin this fall with a late 2019 completion date.

As for the long-abandoned Plaza Towers building, the owners, MCC Real Estate run by businessman Joe Yeager, said because of all the new development in the nearby South Market District, the time appears to be right to invest in renovations. Preliminary planning and a feasibility study are now underway.

Kurt Weigle, president of the Downtown Development District said despite some notable exceptions, there is progress underway.

"You have to keep in mind that over the last five years we've been able to reduce the number of vacant and underutilized space downtown by about 60 percent," Weigle said. "in some cases it just takes the market catching up to some of these buildings."

Back here on Canal Street, visitors and folks that work here are now urging the city to put pressure on the owners of the burned out buildings to do something with the building sooner rather than later.

"Something like this after a year and a half and they can't come in and at least make it look good, doesn't have to be new businesses, but do something with it," Sgro said.

According to the DDD, there has been about a billion dollars in private money invested along Canal Street in recent years.