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 with Grupo Habita 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 to 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 Marriot 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 neighbourhood where I could buy property, an abandoned motel across the street 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.”