Corner Culture: The Pearl Hotel

Despite the pandemic’s devastating effects on tourism and travel, the anxiously-anticipated Pearl Hotel on North Beach Boulevard in Bay St. Louis is nearing completion. Featuring 59 luxury suites, many with balcony views of the boulevard and marina just across the street, this multi-million dollar boutique hotel will be the first to grace the boulevard in Bay St. Louis.

Local developer Cure Land Company tapped award-winning, New Orleans-based firm Trapolin-Peer Architects to design the building which now occupies the once-vacant lot often used for parking overflow and festivals. “Mike Cure approached us several years ago about developing a hotel in this location,” says Gabriel Virdure, Associate at Trapolin-Peer. “He thought it would be a good spot for a hotel, and that there was a need for it.” Following concept approval by the Bay St. Louis Historic Commission, construction began on the new building in late 2018.

With a long family history rooted deep in the local oyster industry, Cure wanted the hotel to reflect that particular aesthetic. “The color palette has blues and greens, it’s sort of speaking to the bay,” says Blake Kidder, an architect at Trapolin-Peer who also worked on the project. “There are a lot of tactile tiles reminiscent of water and effervescence, and the sheen from the inside of the oyster shell on the fixtures.” In addition to the pearlescent quality of the oysters themselves, they also desired to speak to the industry ie. the difficult work involved, the rough textures of the boats and the wood, and the tools used to harvest the Gulf’s favorite mollusk. “It’s hard, it’s industrial, but there are also these really beautiful, iridescent pieces as well,” says Virdure. The architects worked in close coordination with an interior designer out of Jackson, Mississippi, Barrett Design Studio, to develop the desired ambiance in the lobby and other public spaces on the ground floor.

Keeping in mind the reality of harsh weather coming up from the Gulf, the entire bottom floor, or the first 16 feet, is all “hardened construction,” meaning that everything structural is made with concrete. They’re also adding additional landscaping around the perimeter of the building, planters and sand pavers, that will capture excess water. From the second floor up to the fourth, they went with a more traditional wood construction. “If something does come through again, the structure will remain … which hopefully will not happen!” exclaims Virdure. “However, even if it’s a slow flooding event, the bottom floor will remain intact.”

When appreciating the new building on the corner of North Beach and Main, the most prominent features would have to be the sidewalk galleries and deep balconies on the floors above. Unique to the boulevard, the gallery spills out onto the sidewalk, directly engaging pedestrians with the building regardless of whether or not they are guests of the hotel. “I think Bay St. Louis has its own unique aesthetic and I like that we’ve created this infill and how we we’re able to engage the urban fabric that’s starting to develop in the downtown area,” says Kidder. “I think we were really successful in being sensitive … not destroying what was there, but adding to it … adding to the rapport of this destination spot.”

Also, it seems the view of the bay, Gulf and marina from the balconies are not to be missed. “I’m really excited about the second floor corner balconies, the views are really incredible,” says Virdure. “Anyone who is on them, will enjoy them. You’ll want to sit out there with a glass of wine and watch what everyone else is doing on the boulevard.” Guests with suites facing the opposite direction will enjoy a view of the second floor courtyard and pool replete with lush plants and plenty of lounging opportunities. A large hospitality suite on that level designated for private dinners or events can also be used in conjunction with the courtyard.

To fully realize The Pearl Hotel’s concept, Cure Land Company has hired New Orleans branding agency Unreal headed by award-winning principal and creative director Rick Dobbs. The agency has contracted “classic realist” artist Billy Solitario to create several of the lobby’s main paintings. Though many of the artist’s concepts are still in the reviewing phase, a lot of his art will feature the flora and fauna of the marsh and oyster beds. “One of the main pieces, is an oyster fish, a very utilitarian fish,” says Kidder. “It’s not ‘pretty’ in nature but it’s [the painting] is sort of playing with that concept which is pretty fantastic.”

In addition to a cozy lobby which evokes the feeling of a “home-away-from-home,” the ground floor will also have three spaces for commercial occupants, specifically two restaurants and a high end bar. Though the architects were reluctant to release the identity of the new tenants “there are little moments in the restaurant that I am really excited about,” Kidder confided. “You won’t be disappointed.”

*Article was originally published in The Shoofly Magazine on March 25, 2021

**Photos courtesy of Pearl Hotel

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