It takes a certain amount of vision and imagination to look at a Katrina-racked cinderblock building that was once a laundry and picture it with an open-air courtyard, a pool and guest rooms.
Businessman Kevin Jordan looked at the property on Sycamore Street, a block for the beach in Bay St. Louis in 1999 when it was a shuttered “junk/antique store,” he recalled. Someone else bought the property, left it vacant and put it back on the market after the 2005 hurricane swept through.
This time, Jordan bought the building. “When I walked in the front doors with my agent I thought of residences of friends in central Mexico,” he said. “Hurricane Katrina had blown off the raised roof in the main room of the building which is about 3,500 square feet. I thought it would make a perfect courtyard and be perfect for a swimming pool.”
It took seven years to renovate the property — now named Abode — which he is now renting out to guests. Getting to that point was a journey, he said, even with his experience renovating historical homes in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
With a renovation permit from the city, Jordan and his crews went to work. “We began with a new roof and started changing all of the exterior windows,” he said.” Once that was complete we began plastering the ugly cinderblock exterior walls.”
Jordan said he learned the art of plastering out of necessity. He fired two crews on the French Quarter project because the work wasn’t to his liking. “This was about a two-year process because my ADD personality requires me to have more than one renovation project going on at the same time,” he said.
Eventually a floor plan was created and the project moved forward. “Reclaimed lumber was used for the bar and cabinets in the kitchen area from my house that was demolished by Katrina at the foot of Washington Street one block over,” he said. “The majority of the windows and doors are from my collection of things that I have acquired from other renovation projects and demolitions.”
The interior paint colors, trim, and plaster walls and wood ceilings are the same as the exterior.
“The idea was to give the residence a feel of always being in a courtyard,” he said.
He used exposed piping, conduit and ductwork to maintain the industrial look of the building which was constructed as a laundry.
One of the most interesting spaces is the media room, Jordan said. “It was originally the fur room where the ladies of the time stored their furs. It was climate controlled and had a concrete roof and vault door to protect the valuable furs from thieves.”
The progress of the renovation was tied to Jordan’s freewheeling style of getting things done. “I’ve never been good at working with a plan and generally create things as I go and always have to be hands on,” he said. “My employees have learned that a lot of things we do may be torn down and redone. I have learned not to live with things that I don’t really like.”
Renovations on the main house and adjacent studios were completed but the biggest challenge turned out to be building a pool inside the patio.
“We saved the swimming pool for last and what a nightmare that was,” Jordan said. “Bay St. Louis has the highest elevation on the Gulf of Mexico but the soil here fits the definition of quicksand. About four feet under the surface is constant running water. I hired a professional pool building company and fired them after two days.”
Jordan, who had no experience constructing a swimming pool, admitted, “I could not have picked tougher conditions but decided to build it myself.”
He and his crew spent weeks shoring, building bulk heads and “pushing tons of concrete and oyster shells into the bottomless pit until we were able to get things firm enough to spray the gunite shell. After that, it was a breeze.”
Seven years after the purchase of the building, he was granted a special exception by the city and is open for guests.
The property has a main house with two bedrooms, a media room with a pool table, a large kitchen and bar area and two bathrooms. There also are two studios with bathrooms that can be rented with the main house or separately.
Nightly rates are $380-$390 for the main house and $140 for each of the studios.