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Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: ssatchfield@wwltv.com | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS -- Thursday, some tourists walking through downtown seemed impressed with their surroundings.

'The vibrancy and the renovations and the work that's gone on. It's been wonderful. I'm loving it down here,' said Steve Solmonson from Minneapolis.

His friend, Wes Syverson, agreed.

'It looks like they're trying to preserve some of the old along with some of the new,' he said.

The downtown skyline is set to change, with the looming implosion of the former Palace Hotel.

But what does the future hold for other abandoned, and in some cases, blighted buildings?

Kurt Weigle, president of the Downtown Development District, has high hopes.

'There are several on Canal Street right now that are currently empty, that I see being reused in the next few years,' Weigle said. 'Most of what we're working with has good potential.'

It may be hard to imagine some buildings coming back online. Many of them appear to be in bad shape.

However, wheels are already in motion on a few projects.

The tower at 1501 Canal is set for construction in a few months. It's slated to become a senior housing center.

Work is already underway at the former Hibernia Tower, which is being transformed into a mix of commercial and residential.

One of the largest unused buildings, the World Trade Center, is expected to hit the market soon.

Thursday, Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant told Eyewitness News that the city is in the process of drawing up a request for proposals, or RFP, for the WTC. The city now has full control over the 33-story tower after taking over its lease earlier this year.

Weigle chalks much of the progress up to the state's historic tax credit, which gives breaks for investment in buildings more than 50 years old.

Since the tax credit was expanded in 2005, he said it's helped launch more than $1.4 billion worth of investment in the downtown area.

'A lot of the building stock that has been brought back was eligible for that tax credit. Some of that which has not yet been brought back, is not yet eligible,' he said.

Of course, other structures pose major challenges for potential developers -- buildings with futures that are very much in doubt. 'Sometimes the existing conditions can be an issue, whether or not it has mold or what have you,' Weigle said.

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