In a welcoming move, New Orleans developers have set out to transform the dilapidated Economy Inn in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, into a vibrant retro resort, similar to the popular Drifter in Mid-City New Orleans. The abandoned motel, built in 1959, once saw glorious days but has since turned into a notorious drug den, becoming an eyesore and a safety hazard to surrounding communities. 

Mayor of Bay St. Louis, Mike Favre, recollects fond memories of the property’s heyday. He hopes the redevelopment will echo the success of the Drifter, now a trendy oasis. This ambitious project could revitalize the prime real estate near Main Street and the city’s burgeoning downtown. This is likely to attract more tourists to the Mississippi Coast who would love to explore an enticing getaway for New Orleanians or bachelorette groups seeking a weekend retreat. 

Serving as an extended-stay motel in its present condition, the Economy Inn is plagued by myriad issues. Complaints include fire hazards, coupled with a property that has fallen into disrepair and outdated facilities. The situation became worse when the motel’s managers were arrested on drug distribution charges in June 2023, following a series of overdoses, including one case of fatality. According to the legal proceedings, Robert Galloway and Cassie MacKenzie have pleaded guilty and are now facing 20 years of imprisonment with sentencing scheduled for February 2024. 

Amidst these growing concerns, the city contemplated shutting down the motel, declaring it a public nuisance. However, when SVN Urban Properties, a New Orleans-based real estate development group with a portfolio covering property management, brokerage, and project management, expressed interest in acquiring the dilapidated property, the city saw a ray of hope. 

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Eugene Schmitt, Managing Director at SVN, has worked closely with the city since this ambitious renovation project started. The rejuvenation efforts, led by Cain Construction from Bay St. Louis, were documented in captivating videos that have gone viral on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. The ultimate goal of the project is to transform the Economy Inn into a retro-themed vacation destination, erasing its troubled past. 

The vision behind this renovation was inspired by the national trend of restoring properties from the 1950s and 60s, transforming abandoned and ruined buildings to their original glory with modern amenities. The rebranding will infuse a retro, roadside motel vibe with a subtle touch of the local Bay St. Louis aesthetics. The meticulous renovation planning by SVN also includes considerations of typography, house style, and color schemes to replicate the region’s charm. 

Although the motel’s exterior will undergo a thorough cleanup, Schmitt assures that the iconic form of the building will remain intact as the most significant renovations will occur inside the rooms. A notable addition to the redevelopment plan includes expanding and renovating the pool area at the center of the property. It is likely to transform into a unique feature for Bay St. Louis. 

As the renovation of the old motel progresses, the city eagerly anticipates the unveiling of model units and renderings by Cain Construction. As people await a glimpse of the revitalized retro resort, Mayor Favre, reflecting on the motel’s past, expresses a personal desire for the resort to be named “The Driftwood,” a homage to its nostalgic history. Spearheaded by SVN Urban Properties, Bay St. Louis is on its way to transforming from an eyesore into a vibrant resort that will exemplify historical restoration and thoughtful urban development planning.