Workers in a cherry picker with their faces covered and wearing helmets and body armor inspect the base of the Confederate Robert E. Lee monument at Lee Circle in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, May 18, 2017. The New Orleans City Council voted to remove the statue 16 months ago in Dec. 2015 and three other monuments that have already been removed including a statue of Confederate Jefferson Davis, Confederate P.G.T. Beauregard, and the white supremacist Battle of Liberty Place White League monument.

Advocate staff photo by MAX BECHERER

Nearly two years after the whole Confederate monument drama started, P.G.T Beauregard is down and Robert E. Lee is right behind him.

It's time for something else to go up, and quickly.

The first two monuments to be removed, the Battle of Liberty Place obelisk and the Jefferson Davis statue, weren't so prominently placed so their absence leaves gaping holes in the civic landscape. Not so Beauregard and Lee, the Confederate generals depicted in full battle garb, each of whom was a focal point of one of New Orleans' major crossroads.

Each statue celebrated the South's failed uprising against the United States in the name of preserving slavery, which was why the City Council, at Mayor Mitch Landrieu's urging, voted to remove them from the majority African-American city's streets. But each was also undeniably grand. Monument supporters are likely to wince every time they go by and catch a glimpse of their bare bases, and even many who supported the statues' removal will probably find the denuded sites jarring. For everyone, the empty spaces will only serve as constant reminders of how divisive this whole chapter has been.

Belatedly, Landrieu announced plans to go forward Thursday night. He'll put out an RFP for governmental or non-profit organizations that want to display three of the pieces in proper historical context, with both their erection and removal covered (Beauregard will be handled separately due to ownership complications with the City Park Improvement Association, and the group will also play a role in deciding what should rise in his place). And he'll launch a process to re-imagine Lee Circle, adding infrastructure to allow for a fountain and future "public art."

There were no further details on how replacing Beauregard and Lee would work, or how soon it might happen. But both a timeline and a process should come quickly.

There's been much discussion of preserving the monuments and finding a way to keep them on display, and that is important. More important is the challenge of creating something new, beautiful and hopefully far more unifying, so that the wounds that both the statues' presence and their removal caused can start to heal. 

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.