After 123 years of operation, Hotel Duncan, a historic property in the Chapel Street Historical District, was sold for a reported $8 million to the Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners. It will be redesigned with fresh facilities, a redesigned lobby and a new name.

AJ Capital Partners’ college-hotel division, Graduate Hotels, announced its aim to redesign Hotel Duncan at 1151 Chapel St. at the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team’s meeting on Sept. 19. Tim Franzen, the president of Graduate Hotels, said that despite the redesign, his company intends to maintain many of the building’s historic qualities, such as its neon marquee and hand-operated elevator, when it opens in 2019.

It is these aspects, said Emily Slaughter ’17, that make the Duncan “charmingly old-fashioned.” Slaughter, who stayed at the hotel this summer, conceded that the hotel was perhaps a little musty and due for some renovations. But she adamantly asserted that any drawbacks to the current design were more than made up for by the hotel’s nostalgic appeal.

Many New Haveners place a great deal of value on preserving physical buildings such as Hotel Duncan.

“It is very important that the essential character of the building is preserved regardless of ownership,” said John Herzan, the preservation services officer at the New Haven Preservation Trust.

He added that internal and external characteristics are just as important when it comes to preserving a building’s personality.

Graduate Hotels aims to walk the line between preserving the building’s historical value and adding modern renovations.

For many, the hotel promises an influx of much-needed amenities to the Elm City.

Ginny Kozlowski, the executive director of Visit New Haven, the city’s tourism board, explained that the new property will provide more hotel and conference rooms to a city that lacks a sufficient number of them during peak business times. She added that participants in large functions such as the Knights of Columbus’ meeting have been forced to commute into the city from hotels in Milford or Trumbull. Graduate Hotels will help alleviate these issues, she said, and provide a boon to tourists.

The new Graduate Hotels represents a product not yet introduced into the New Haven market: a boutique hotel marketed toward tourists rather than college parents or long-term tenants. Other projects such as the 126-unit building coming to 85 Elm St. and the planned complex at the intersection of George and High streets have joined the Graduate Hotels in this recent trend.

Paul McGowan, the owner of The Study at Yale, agrees, saying that the new brand will serve a different segment of the market from his hotel, which has long “enjoyed success and a loyal following as an integral part of the Yale community.”

Since 1894, Hotel Duncan has lodged countless occupants and garnered a reputation as a classic New Haven hotel.

Its previous owner, Sterling Shapiro, who declined to comment for this story, is set to retire after the Duncan closes.

“It has been a long good road,” Shapiro told the New Haven Register. “It is a little sad as it gets near the end.”

Hotel Duncan will close for renovation after The Game this November.

Skakel McCooey |