For the first time in four days, a French Quarter block was back open Saturday. The 800 block of Royal St. re-opened to foot traffic as crews work to completely demolish an historic building that collapsed earlier this week.
Locals and tourists got an up-close look at a piece of history that's gone forever. "It's actually shocking," said tourist Chase Burk of Texas. "I would be a little nervous if I had a building on either side of there," explained John Spink of Alabama.
"Now there's hundreds of people wanting to know what's going on so we actually got some attention," said David Barany, who owns Tresore, a gallery directly across the street from the collapsed building.
Describing the scene earlier this week, Barany said, "it was like a mini 9/11." That forced him and others to shutdown for several days.
"It really does make you wonder.. like are there other little ticking time bombs in the quarter that are like that?," asked Walter Gallas, Executive Director of the Louisiana Landmarks Society.
No one knows yet what caused the building to crumble, but preservationists like Gallas agree, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the state needs better protection, especially in situations where just a week ago, an 18-wheeler took out the porch of an historic home on Chartres St. "We've been pushing and pushing and pushing harder and harder on this very limited space that was laid out in the 18th century with an 18th century street grid that we're still trying to apply in the 21st century, 300 years later," explained Gallas.
Laws are in place that ban certain vehicles in the quarter, but the Vieux Carre Property Owners, residents and associates believes there needs to be better enforcement of over-sized vehicles, but also better enforcement of building maintenance.
"When they (non-compliance) happen for decades, and there isn't that kind of enforcement, then you get what we have now, which is trucks and buses routinely plowing the French Quarter, buildings that are really terrible disrepair that in this case actually could have killed someone..I mean this is a crisis and a wake up call," said Meg Lousteau with VCPORA.
For Barany and his gallery, getting back to normal can't come soon enough. "It's really just a temporary setback for us, I'm hoping," he said. Business owners on Royal say they'll be open again tomorrow, but closed on Monday when demolition crews get back to work.