Church renovates Katrina damage to boost retreat revenue

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A coast church hit hard by the economic downturn is hoping renovations underway now will help its bottom line later.

Seashore United Methodist Assembly has long hosted retreats on its Biloxi beachfront property. Many of the buildings were destroyed or damaged in Katrina, including a motel used to generate income.

Katrina left the top half of the Frazier Building untouched and the bottom floor washed out. Now, Seashore United Methodist Assembly is on its way to making the motel whole again.

Art Steinaway is the general manager.

"The bathrooms are redone. They're private. We've putting queens and all brand new beds. Really nice material, the carpeting. Expensive. We want people to come here and be really comfortable."

The church resumed renting the upstairs rooms in June after years of housing volunteers. Once renovations are complete downstairs, the number of available rooms will jump from 16 to 23.

With more space, the staff is working to reconnect with previous clients - mainly churches that want to hold religious retreats.

"What we're doing now is really searching out our old spiritual groups that came here from different backgrounds," said Steinaway. "The Baptists. The Catholics. Different religions. Searching ways to have large enough space to accommodate 50 to 60."

Manager Art Steinaway says the church had to dip into its savings to pay for the work because money is tight.

"We are like most of the religious groups, the cutbacks nationwide has been really tough," said Steinaway. "This will increase our private rooms and people pay more money for the private rooms. So it will generate some good income. We've spent some good money, but down the line it will come back to us."

Church officials say once the renovations to the Frazier building are complete in April, plans are to remodel the church's dormitories with new bathrooms and furnishings. The church also runs a cafeteria style kitchen on the grounds.

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