Kingsgate Hotel near UC ‘Graduates’ to boutique brand

Adventurous Journeys (AJ) Capital Partners has completed its acquisition of the former Kingsgate Marriott Hotel and Conference Center adjacent to the University of Cincinnati campus and will convert the 206-room property into a Graduate Hotel. The university unveiled plans to sell the facility to Chicago-based AJ Capital last October via a 99-year sale/lease, with an upfront payment of $23.5 million.

UC officials noted that when the Kingsgate complex debuted in 1999 on Goodman Avenue, there weren’t any other hotels close to the campus. But that’s no longer the case, with the opening in recent years of such hotels as the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Cincinnati Uptown/University Area and the Hampton Inn & Suites Cincinnati/Uptown-University Area.

“The environment has changed, and the university no longer needs to own a hotel to meet the needs of our community,” Robert Ambach, UC’s senior vice president for administration and finance, said when the sale was unveiled last fall. “This move allows us to generate investment returns and to refocus those resources on our essential purpose as a leading academic and research institution.”

AJ Capital said conversion of the hotel to the Graduate brand will begin this November and be completed the following February. The renovation, guided by the company’s in-house design team, will involve all guestrooms and guest baths, common areas, the lobby-level restaurant and bar, and the hotel’s 21,500 square feet of flexible meeting and events space. (From now until its debut as a Graduate locale, the hotel has dropped its affiliation with Marriott and will operate as an independent property.)

Hotel conversions to the Graduate brand go way beyond hanging a few pennants and painting some surfaces with the school’s colors. Instead, the brand’s designers do a “deep dive” into the institution’s history and culture, and create a unique, immersive “memory-making experience in places that often played host to the best days of our guests’ lives,” according to the boutique brand’s website.

There are currently 13 Graduate hotels operating across the U.S., in such cities as Ann Arbor, Michigan; Athens, Georgia; Berkeley, California; and Seattle. Another 14 hotels — including the Cincinnati locale and others in East Lansing, Michigan, and Columbus, Ohio — are under development and slated to open by the end of 2020.

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Matthew Hall is a Mount Lookout-based freelance writer/editor specializing in covering architectural and design trends. His career includes stints with the Cincinnati Business Courier, the Cincinnati Enquirer, (an online bookseller) and Boutique Design magazine. He's also happy to be a later-in-life dad who adopted two children from Guatemala with his wife.