Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- On a sultry summer-like day, jazz fans flock indoors for some cool air and even cooler sound at the visitor center of the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park.
The venue is located on North Peters Street in the French Quarter. Yet, over at Armstrong Park in Treme, there is a new hope that jazz enthusiasts will flock to the newly-renovated "Perseverance Hall."
"I think it just kind of makes you smile," said Carol Clark, superintendent of New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. "When you think about this place and the history of Perseverance Hall and the musicians that were here and the dances that were held here, it makes it for a good day, a good opening."
The opening of Perseverance Hall comes $4 million and 13 years after the National Park Service first made plans to put a National Jazz Park at Armstrong Park. Federal funding issues, followed by Hurricane Katrina, derailed the project until now.
"Its namesake, Louis Armstrong, is a global icon for jazz music. And to have music played in the park, and it's proximity between Treme and the French Quarter, is also significant," said Scott Hutcheson, advisor to the mayor on cultural economy.
Park officials said they currently have $1.3 million to keep the park open and programs ongoing, but anything beyond that will require more money. It will take millions more to renovate multiple historic buildings now within the jazz park at Armstrong. The structures have termite and water damage and require extensive renovations.
"It's a very small step," said Leo Watermeier with the group, "Friends of Armstrong Park."
Watermeier said while he welcomes the opening of Perseverance Hall, he points out that it falls far short of the original plan. That plan, conceived in 1998, would take the multiple venues of the National Jazz Park -- now spread throughout the French Quarter -- and place most of them at a centralized space at Armstrong Park.
"We question the commitment by the National Park Service, the financial commitment, the resources they have, to make this project something that's going to really be an asset to the park," Watermeier said.
The idea of a central location is not out of the question yet, according to park officials.
"Originally, it was going to be the total footprint of the park," Clark said, adding that partnerships, including private fundraising, may be needed for the National Jazz Park to ultimately reach its full potential and hit all the right notes.
For now, Perseverance Hall will be open on Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. As improvements are made, the park service plans to add staff and extend the hours and days it is open.