UConn, Graduate Hotels to Enter Deal For Sale of Nathan Hale Inn

The Nathan Hale Inn & Conference Center. The University plans to sell the Nathan Hale Inn to a professional hotel company that will make much-needed improvements to the property. (Peter Morenus/UConn File Photo)
The University plans to sell the Nathan Hale Inn to a professional hotel company that will make much-needed improvements to the property. (Peter Morenus/UConn File Photo)

The University of Connecticut and Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners (AJ Capital Partners), the owner of the Graduate Hotels brand, have reached an agreement in which the company will buy and rebrand the Nathan Hale Inn, adding it to its collection of boutique-style hotels on and around college campuses nationwide.

The UConn Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to authorize university officials to sign agreements with AJ Capital Partners, in which it would buy the university-owned Nathan Hale Inn at UConn Storrs and rebrand it as Graduate Storrs, part of the Graduate Hotels collection, and sign a lease for the land on which the hotel is situated.

The hotel will undergo a comprehensive renovation to convert it to Graduate Storrs, which will touch all guestrooms, common areas, the restaurant and bar, and meeting rooms, and open in late 2019.

“We are delighted to welcome Graduate Hotels to Storrs,” UConn President Susan Herbst said. “This accomplishes two key university goals: to have a quality hotel in Storrs that is operated privately at no expense to the University or the state. This will be an extremely welcome addition to the campus that will meet the needs of countless visitors and guests for years to come.”

AJ Capital Partners will pay $8.3 million for the property under terms of the agreement, the same price that UConn paid when the University bought the Nathan Hale from private owners three years ago.

The agreement also calls on AJ Capital Partners to spend $10 million to $13 million in renovations and improvements, with the purchase price reduced by $300,000 if it cannot get certain regulatory approvals to build the ballroom addition.

The 98-room Nathan Hale Inn opened in 2001, and was privately owned until UConn’s purchase in 2015.

UConn currently uses about half of the rooms for student residences, with the other half continuing to function as a hotel. The approximately 150 students currently living there will remain in their rooms through the end of the 2018-19 academic year, after which time the renovations would start and they would be offered rooms elsewhere on campus for future years.

Graduate Hotels has properties in 11 locations currently open and 11 others in development at public and private institutions nationwide, including two opening in 2019 near Brown and Yale universities. Graduate Hotels designs each location to reflect specific characteristics of the area and the university communities in which they are anchored.

As the only hotel in close proximity to UConn Storrs, the Nathan Hale Inn has historically served varied groups of people, from alumni returning to reminisce on campus to potential students, visiting athletics teams and social groups, and local residents hosting out-of-area friends.

UConn planned at one point to convert the entirety of the property into a residence hall, but only if another hotel was privately developed nearby. However, student housing demand has leveled off at UConn Storrs, as apartments have opened in Downtown Storrs and enrollment growth has been slowed.

UConn had previously considered allowing private developers to build a hotel on the land where Mansfield Apartments are currently located, but also left open the option of selling the Nathan Hale to a buyer who would be willing to upgrade it and continue to run it as a hotel.

“The Nathan Hale Inn was purchased by the University to better maintain the building, which is near the center of campus, and potentially serve to address an increasing student housing demand,” Scott Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer and executive vice president for administration, told trustees in a resolution summarizing the agreements.

“Since the housing demand on the Storrs campus has stabilized, the administration believes this is a unique opportunity to sell the hotel to a professional hotel company and have that private party make much-needed improvements to the property,” he said.

Because UConn student housing can grow or shrink based on annual student demand, UConn officials say there is currently excess capacity to accommodate the relatively modest number of students displaced from the Nathan Hale Inn to other on-campus residence halls. UConn’s goal continues to be to house as many students on campus as possible, both because it makes the campus a more vibrant place and because it enhances students’ experience.