PARIS—Since 2017, when philosopher-turned-entrepreneur Cyril Aouizerate launched MOB Hotels of the People, the brand has launched two properties in France—with a third on the way next year—which were designed to challenge the norm. Now, the brand is planning its first location in the U.S.
“MOB Hotels’ mission is to create an affordable, social, fun and intellectually stimulating experience, where the hotel is really a local community center that provides lively engagement and healthy eating options in an eclectic atmosphere,” said Aouizerate, the founder and CEO of the company. “It’s a place that is radical, a place that plays havoc with conventions, challenging the norm, offering large common spaces to create meetings of minds, human exchanges and a place to experience culture.”
The first U.S. location will open in Washington, DC, in the Union Market neighborhood in 2020. Although it will be the first property in the States, it is a bit of a homecoming for the brand; the first venue was a MOB—which stands for Maimonide of Brooklyn—restaurant in New York. “The United States represents for us the ‘big bang’ of counterculture,” Aouizerate said. “That’s why we originally started our MOB movement as a restaurant in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, back in 2011. Our arrival in the United States—this time as a hotel—is a long-awaited return.”
The nation’s capital was specifically chosen for the 144-room new-build. “Washington, DC has been a subject of obsession for me because this capital has seen such impressive growth recently,” said Aouizerate. “After I walked the streets of the city, I was in awe of the strength and culinary diversity of the Union Market neighborhood. I knew we had to be a part of this community, so we decided to develop a MOB in this location.”
The property will have a rooftop terrace with views of the Capitol, live music, a cinema, restaurant and bar. “In Washington, DC, our approach is to be the mirror of a new American generation committed to ecological, social and cultural themes,” he said. “We want to be the rallying point of this culture that aims to appease the world and its social tensions without hiding the truths. We also want to be a space where NGOs, associations and movements that wish to defend and share their values will be able to express themselves.”
That attitude is what defines MOB, according to Aouizerate. “Our vision of progress revolves around a changing humanity,” he said. “We have conceived MOB as a multifunctional space that evolves according to customer expectations and societal changes. MOB Hotel has been designed for and with its guests. We like to define it as MOB Hotels of the People—a versatile living and meeting place that, seemingly contradictory, is designed with ourselves and others in mind.”
MOB’s first property was the 92-room MOB Hotel Paris Flea Market in the city’s Saint-Ouen neighborhood, home to France’s largest flea market. The second property, the 99-room MOB Lyon Confluence, is in Lyon’s Confluence district, an area described as a hotbed of creativity known for its ongoing urban development, nightlife and arts scene. In 2020, the brand is planning MOB House, a mixed-use work/play hub opening in the Saint-Ouen neighborhood for extended stays.
Aouizerate said that the typical MOB property is “a polymorphous living and meeting place that’s conceived as an oasis for curious travelers. This includes palatial beds, an organic restaurant, a bookshop, a stage for live performances, pop-up stores, a cinema, gardens, terraces, allotments for local residents and a wonderful program of happenings, to which MOB Hotel holds the secret.”
The live performances have attracted some big names. “MOB has a true passion for culture, hosting many an eclectic mix of live, private showcase events ranging from Wyclef Jean from the Fugees to Mos Def, who greeted guests at reception before grabbing the mic to entertain the crowds,” he said.
True to its credo, the company also has a variety of sustainable practices. “Our commitment to the environment is tangible, with only organic products in the kitchen and rooms, promoting short food-supply chains, waste recycling and other initiatives supported by a five-point MOB Cares operations credo,” said Aouizerate.
In most cases, the brand does its own development, not relying on outside investors. “However, we do also occasionally collaborate with partners in the United States, such as with my friend Philippe Journo, founder of eco-driven real estate developer Compagnie de Phalsbourg,” he said. “For us, the most important thing is to take pleasure in our partnerships.”
As for the future, the company has begun plans for a second U.S. location in Los Angeles’ Chinatown in 2022.
As for others? “That’s still up in the air,” said Aouizerate. “It sounds odd, but we move according to the meetings that we have—it depends more on our encounters than our egocentrism. My plan is to continue to live with my teams and our travelers in a future that we will carve together.” HB