Hotels Give College a Try

Graduate Hotels are targeting college towns across the United States to offer guests a chance to relive their college experiences. The hotel will include a bar and restaurant inspired by local art collections and 100 to 150 rooms filled with handcrafted items and rates slightly above the area’s limited-service hotels.

AJ Capital Partners of Chicago is teaming up with Hong Kong-based Gaw Capital Partners to invest about $500 million to offer 20 hotels over the next five years. The goal is to appeal to people coming back to college to attend sporting events, reunions or school visits for their kids, said chief executive of AJ Capital Partners Ben Weprin. Graduate Hotels will also cater to people doing business with the universities or firms in the area. The aim is to focus on school spirit but also the local color that reflects the cultural roots of the area.

Graduate is converting the Foundry Park Inn & Spa in Athens, Georgia to include vintage ceramic lamps in the shape of the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot and REM and B-52s’ album covers. The Tempe hotel will include an ant farm behind the front desk to represent Arizona State University’s well-known social insects department. 

Graduate is aiming to target a slightly older crowd than the industry favorite, which is millenials. Graduate hopes to reach a more affluent crowd, the 35- to 45-year-olds, which could be a few more years removed from college and therefore more nostalgic for their college glory days. 


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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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