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Chicago hotelier set to buy the Inn at USC

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Hotel Trundle, a boutique hotel in downtown Columbia SC’s Main Street district, will open in April 2018.

Hotelier Ben Weprin, who specializes in acquiring boutique hotels in college towns, is working to purchase the Inn at USC from the University of South Carolina Development Foundation, according to documents filed with the Columbia Planning Commission.

The hotel will likely become part of Weprin’s Graduate Hotels group.

The group operates 11 Graduate Hotels in college towns like Athens, Ga., Oxford, Miss., and Lincoln, Neb. The group is adding another nine properties, according to its website.

All of the hotels are named to reflect their location, such as Graduate Athens, Graduate Richmond, Graduate Iowa City, etc. Weprin’s A.J. Capital Partners also owns a stable of luxury hotels.

A.J. Capital and the USC Development Foundation declined comment.

Last year, in an interview with the publication Hospitality Design , Weprin had this to say about his Graduate Hotels:

”We started looking at the college market and saw there was a real lack of product in that vein and nothing really national in terms of a brand built around those areas of culture, commerce, and creativity. I’m from one of these towns. I grew up right next to the University of Dayton in Ohio, went to undergrad at University of Tennessee — which is a great college town — and graduate school in the Big Ten (at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.)

“I really could see the dynamics around these markets. We pride ourselves on the sort of high to low. Look at a restaurant group that’s done a fancy restaurant and then a Shake Shack — they still have the same service, culture, and the same idea of taking whatever you do and being the best at it. We take that approach to everything that we do, having the same hospitality culture regardless of price point or place in a market.”

The Inn at USC is now operated by the Wyndam Group. General manager Andrew Lucas confirmed that a sale was being negotiated.

He said he didn’t anticipate any staff changes should the sale go through.

“Everybody should still be here as far as we know,” he said. “Consistency of staff is important.”.

Lucas said he didn’t know if the name of the hotel would change.

The Inn at USC was opened in 2005 after a wicked battle between the USC Foundation and preservationists to save two historic structures on the site — Kirkland Apartments and the Black House.

Eventually, the foundation agreed to incorporate the two structures into the 117-room hotel at 1619 Pendleton St.

The anticipated sale between the foundation and Weprin went before the planning commission because Kirkland Apartments would be removed from the hotel’s planned unit development site plan to be leased to the National Advocacy Center for long-term trainee housing on USC’s campus.

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