The couple who is resurrecting the landmark Bay Town Inn on the beachfront here hopes to be welcoming guests by midsummer 2013. Nikki and John Moon celebrated the inn’s ground-breaking Oct. 19 with city officials and well wishers who joined in a champagne toast to the long-awaited project.
“It’s been three years since I applied for grant money,” Nikki Moon said. “That was the start of everything.” The inn received a low-interest forgivable loan through the Community Development Block Grant Program-funded Job Generation Fund that is managed by the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce. The couple didn’t release the total investment.
The inn is being built on Beach Boulevard at Demontluzin Street where the original one stood until Hurricane Katrina washed it away in 2005. Nikki Moon bought the property before the storm. She was inside the historic building, built in 1897 as the DeMontluzin family residence, along with six other people who survived the storm’s tidal surge. She and two others clung to a nearby tree for hours after the inn broke apart. The four others swam away to safety.
She and her husband, who are New Orleans residents and newly married, are hoping their development will spark growth in the still-recovering downtown and beachfront area that is a favorite of New Orleanians. Building anywhere other than the Bay, she said, “wasn’t an option.”
City officials see the inn’s return as key to filling in gaps, both physical and economic, that Katrina left in its wake. Mayor Les Fillingame, on hand for the ground breaking, said the inn will bring overnight visitors who come to the city to shop, dine and attend festivals, Second Saturday and other popular events.
He called the return of the Bay Town Inn “a significant piece of the puzzle” in the development of the city’s waterfront and said “it is the first of many.” The city’s $21 million harbor will soon be under construction across Beach Boulevard.
City Council member Wendy McDonald, who also helped break ground for the project with a ceremonial shovel, called Bay Town Inn “economic development at its very best.” Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, said the inn’s new units are welcomed additions to the county’s hotel room inventory.
Bay St. Louis architect Ed Wikoff designed the coastal-style inn, which is actually three buildings. The Moons’ 2,000-square-foot residence will be closest to the beachfront, about 25 feet off Beach Boulevard. The two-story, 7,000-square-foot inn will have five units per floor, each with a bedroom and living/dining space with a kitchenette. A key feature is its wide veranda. In between is the pool and the third building, a 900-square-foot cabana that makes up the 11th unit, which is handicapped accessible. It also has changing areas and a laundry facility for guests.
Rates will begin around $125 a night.
The new inn won’t be a traditional B&B as the old Bay Town Inn was, with meals served in a common dining room. But Nikki Moon said she will offer guests homemade treats to start their day. She called building the inn and the couple’s home “a dream come true.”
She said, “It’s wonderful to be able to contribute to the economy and provide accommodations for people to come and stay but also to build our home.”