Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS- The blighted Grand Palace HotelatCanal andClaiborne is one of the first sights visitors see when they come in from Interstate 10.

But state officials say that's scheduled to change by the end of the year.

After years of sitting vacant, the state plans to transform the old hotel building into landscaped greenspace.

It's inside the footprint of the new University Medical Center. Workers have been removing asbestos inside the 60-year-old hotel so it can eventually be demolished.

At 18 stories, the Grand Palace hotel is the largest building in the fooprint. Its demolition will cost nearly $2.5 million.

'I think it's time to knock down that building and some of the other stuff on Canal,' said Patrick White, general manager of nearby Handsome Willy's. 'I think it's time that Canal Street make a return to what Canal Street was back when our parents were growing up.'

White believes demolishing the blighted hotel will help improve the neighborhood.

'Currently we have a bunch of issues with a lot of the homeless and the vagrants that come around and they break into our stuff,' said White. 'I know a lot of them like to use the abandoned buildings as temporary housing.'

Others would rather see the long-abandoned structure brought back to life.

'I find it interesting that people think an empty space is better than having buildings around,' said Sandra Stokes, board member of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana.

Preservationists argue that because developers don't plan to replace the hotel with another structure, tearing it down is premature..

'There's parking, a garage attached to this building, give us a litle while, let's study it, see if it can structurally support a parking garage,' said Stokes.

'I appreciate New Orleans and I don't think they should destroy any building that's an architectural position in New Orleans,' said Jennifer Rogerson, St. Bernard Project. 'People grew up enjoying the place. If you're going to use it for something, reconstruct it, rebuild it.'

Meanwhile, neighbors like White say change for that blighted hotel is longtime coming.

'I'm all for more greenspace down here,' said White. 'As long as they're actually going to do something with that building, then we're all for it.'

Officials are still working to get needed permits and clearances. When they do implode the old hotel, officials will shut down I-10 for a few hours, because it's so close.

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