By Denise Cheeseman
After more than 14 years in the Iowa City area, the Sheraton Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque St., will make way for a Graduate Hotel.
The Graduate Iowa City will be the latest acquisition for Graduate Hotels, a company that focuses on boutique experiences in college towns across the country, said parent corporation AJ Capital Partners in a press release.
The Sheraton property has occupied Dubuque Street for 34 years, said Steve Smyka, the general manager of the Sheraton and hotelVetro, although it spent the majority of that time as a Holiday Inn and added the eighth and ninth floors in a later renovation.
Now, the property will get an extensive face-lift, which, according to a press release, “will touch all guest rooms, restaurant, pool, meeting and event spaces, and the hotel lobby” to incorporate the brand’s characteristic uniqueness. The distinctive atmosphere of the hotels changes depending on the towns in which they are located.
Each location is styled with bits of university memorabilia and small-town charm to “celebrate and commemorate the optimistic energy of its community while offering an extended retreat to places that often played host to the best days of our lives,” the release said.
Other Graduate Hotels are located in college towns across the country, including those of the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“We look forward to expanding our footprint in the Big Ten conference with Graduate Iowa City’s opening in the Sheraton space,” said Tim Franzen, the president of Graduate Hotels, in the release.
HotelVetro was also included in the purchase on June 29. Smyka said he expects the Sheraton to finish out the year, and the AJ Capital Partners press release said that the renovations will be finished by the summer of 2018. It is unclear if the Sheraton and hotelVetro spaces will be closed during this time.
Upon completion of the renovations, Graduate Iowa City will join the in-progress Hilton Garden Inn and Chauncey Tower boutique hotel to “more than double the rooms downtown,” said Ben Kinseth, the director of operations and assets at Kinseth Hospitality Co., at the state of downtown meeting on June 27.
In a panel discussion led by Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird, Kinseth said the future looked “really exciting with the buying power of all these patrons that will stay in hotels downtown — it’ll just be great for all the businesses.”
In addition, Kinseth said, the more personalized hotels will increase the distinction between staying in the heart of Iowa City and staying out in Coralville or near I-80. Choosing a downtown hotel such as the Graduate will enhance the traveler’s experience and contribute to Iowa City’s economy, he said.
“Downtown will become even more of a destination,” he said.