Demolition began early May 15 on the first of three historic buildings in the footprint of the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans.

Stephen Dwyer, an attorney for Hard Rock developer 1031 Canal LLC, confirmed to ENR that the demolition was under way at 1022 Iberville, following a one-day delay because of severe weather on Thursday.

“We are proceeding as scheduled according to approved plans, and we expect that building to be down today,” Dwyer said May 15.

Under the plans, crews will remove the three buildings so they can begin the process of dismantling the Hard Rock structure and carefully removing two bodies that have been trapped in the rubble since Oct. 12, when the upper-floors of the 18-story building collapsed, killing three people.

Officials with 1031 Canal say removing the three historic buildings is necessary for the Hard Rock demolition to begin. The three buildings—which also include 1025-1019 Canal and 1027 Canal—are located in the demolition red zone, which needs to be clear so cranes can move into place, and to make way for any falling debris. The two Canal Street buildings belong to companies owned by 1031 Canal developer, Mohan Kailas. The Iberville building belongs to Todd Trosclair, CEO of All-Star Electric and a minority partner in 1031 Canal.

Last week, the New Orleans Fire Dept. issued an emergency order to tear down the three adjacent buildings. Without that order, developers would have needed the approval of the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission before they could raze the trio of historic buildings. The emergency order came just a few days after the city of New Orleans issued a permit to begin the Hard Rock demolition—ending months of deliberations with the developer over the safest way to demolish the building.

With numerous lawsuits pending over the collapse, evidence preservation will be a key consideration during the demolition process. Last week, attorneys litigating those various lawsuits agreed on protocols for evidence preservation. The protocol establishes steps for identifying and removing structural components of the building that will need to be retrieved for ongoing investigations after the demolition. Plans call for the use of high-visibility paint to mark these components, many of which are in the northwest corner of the building, where the collapse started.

The $8.4 million Hard Rock demolition, led by Kolb Grading and subcontractor Marschel Wrecking, will be a traditional demolition, in which the building will be dismantled piece by piece and in multiple phases. In addition to tearing down the three historic buildings, the first phase also entails removing the remnants of two tower cranes that were brought down in a controlled demolition a few days after the collapse. One of the cranes remains precariously draped over the top of the building and needs to be taken down for safe access.

After the crane and adjacent buildings are removed, crews will can begin clearing rubble so they can recover the two bodies. The areas where the remains are believed to be will also be marked with high-visibility paint so the crane operator, structural engineer and others will be able to monitor their progress. The team will carefully remove cantilever slab sections and other debris to allow search and rescue teams and local authorities to assist in recovering the remains.

Then, the collapsed, unstable hotel structure — floors nine through 18— will be torn down, followed by demolition of floors one through eight, which consist of a parking garage that is stable.

Under the plan, the victims’ bodies would be retrieved and the upper floors removed by July, before peak hurricane season. The entire demolition is expected to take six months and should be complete some time around the one-year anniversary of the building’s collapse.