Graduate Madison

This rendering shows what the new lobby of the Graduate Madison hotel will look like once a renovation is completed in May. The 72-room hotel, formerly known as the Campus Inn and before that, the Madison Inn, closed about two weeks ago for the remodeling project that will include the addition of a bar and restaurant on the hotel's rooftop.

A 72-room hotel a block off State Street has closed for renovations and when it reopens will be part of a Chicago company’s efforts to create boutique hotels in college cities throughout the country.

AJ Capital Partners is using part of $500 million in private investment funding to renovate and re-brand the Campus Inn, 601 Langdon St.

The new iteration, called Graduate Madison, will include renovated rooms, a cafe just off the main lobby, and The Madison Blind, a bar and restaurant on the hotel’s rooftop designed to be open year round. The rooftop space will include 1,250 square feet of meeting space and its own express elevator.

“Our business model with the Graduate is to find interesting and dynamic cities, such as Madison, that have an appetite for unique, interesting hotels that match and reflect the personality of its surrounding areas,” said Ben Weprin, AJ Capital’s CEO.

“These are all dramatically unique and designed to each location. We’ve found the fabric of the community and brought that inside,” Weprin said.

AJ Capital, founded in 2008, bought the hotel in January 2014 for $10.4 million, according to city records. The city assessed the property at $5.1 million, but assessor Mark Hanson said the purchase price can often include the price of the business, not just the property.

The seven-story building was constructed in 1960 and for years was known as the Madison Inn. The 44,600-square-foot hotel, at Langdon and North Frances streets, closed about two weeks ago. It is near Memorial Union, the Pyle Center conference facility and the 137-room Lowell Center Conference and Lodging facility at 610 Langdon St.

The hotel was converted to a boutique hotel in 2003 after a multimillion-dollar renovation. Weprin declined to say how much money was being spent on the latest remodeling project.

AJ Capital, which owns about 20 hotels in the U.S., Mexico and Caribbean, launched its Graduate concept last fall with the opening of hotels in Tempe, Arizona, and Athens, Georgia. Hotels in Madison, Oxford, Mississippi, and Charlottesville, Virginia, are scheduled to open this spring. The company has plans for 15 to 20 Graduate hotels in the next three to five years including in Lincoln, Nebraska; Durham, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia.

Unique touches to Graduate Madison will include chandeliers made from canoes and paddles, a front desk inspired by a vintage trophy case and artwork depicting outdoor activities.

“We look at Madison as a year-round destination,” Weprin said. “When we outlined our platform. ... Madison was right at the top of that list, and we zeroed in on the Campus Inn from day one.”

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Barry Adams covers regional and business news for the Wisconsin State Journal.