Resurrection is a time-honored tradition in New Orleans, and the city's latest renaissance is happening now at the Pontchartrain Hotel, a 106-room, 88-year-old property in the Garden District.
The man responsible for renovating the Pontchartrain for a June 2016 opening couldn't be more excited at its potential. "Dude, the history of New Orleans is amazing," says Ben Weprin, 37, winding through the construction consuming the hotel's interior. "New Orleans is just f--king cool. Lil Wayne grew up around here!"
Weprin, founder of Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners--"AJ" stands for "adventurous journeys"—is one of the hottest young hotel developers in the country. He specializes in buying a run-down gem and giving it a new shine, a task undoubtedly made easier by his irrepressible midwestern optimism. Armed with $800 million in equity raised from the likes of billionaire John Pritzker, he has successfully rejuvenated resorts and hotels in the Caribbean, Miami, Napa Valley and, of course, Chicago. AJ Capital's portfolio contains 18 hotels, including the iconic Malliouhana in Anguilla and the more reasonably priced Graduate hotels.