The verb “drift” is fluid in definition: it can mean both “to be carried by a current of air or water” as well as “to be blown into heaps by the wind”. The three Originals behind this boutique New Orleans hotel are all lifelong drifters of the 21st-century kind. First, they found themselves being carried around the U.S. on the demanding currents of finance, tech entrepreneurialism, and the real estate business, and then they were heaped together when an opportunity arose in the form of an abandoned motel.
It all started after Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, which caused extensive damage to New Orleans and the surrounding area. Until this point, Jayson Seidman had been conceptualizing hotels and making waves in the real estate business, and Zach Kupperman had founded two tech start-ups and a media company while also playing the real estate game.“
Before Hurricane Katrina,” Kupperman explains, “New Orleans had been a city in slow decline. From the mid-1960s there was a brain drain, urban decay—that old story—but as terrible as the hurricane was, it provided this impetus for change and really gave the citizens an opportunity to shape the course of the city.”
Seidman and Kupperman started looking at hotel deals together, and when a mutual friend connected them to Alex Ramirez, who was also a big name on the New Orleans real estate scene, “the rest was history” as Kupperman puts it. Because of his deep connections with the city, Ramirez wanted to play his part in its regeneration after the hurricane. “I was born and raised in New Orleans to parents who immigrated to the U.S. with the American Dream mindset”, he says. “They met while working at the Marriott Hotel here, but my dad tried to keep me away from hospitality, saying the hours were crazy.
That’s why I went into real estate, but while I was looking for a neighborhood where I could buy property, an abandoned motel caught my eye….”
They all saw the motel as both anachronistic yet curiously current. The 1950s structure was symbolic of the nomadic lifestyle of the Beat Generation artists (with the word “motel” itself being a portmanteau of “motor” and “hotel” that first entered dictionaries after World War II, when the Beat generation came to prominence) but also promised to be an ideal outpost for a new generation of nomads who could simultaneously escape their lives while staying connected through technology.
Taking inspiration from the Beat’s artistic output, the three visualized a place that played its part in the creation of what Seidman calls “the new New Orleans; the next generation of New Orleans that I see as being full of drifters from around the world, all here for the common purpose of discovery.”