Despite facing zoning issues this past spring, renovations of the Duncan hotel are still expected to open in early 2019.

After 123 years of operation, the historic Hotel Duncan was sold in September 2018 to Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners for $8 million. The building is currently in the process of undergoing a comprehensive renovation and will reopen with the new title “Graduate New Haven”, the local location of a chain of Graduate Hotels, a chain of boutique hotels in college towns across the country. Following the renovation, the five-story hotel will have 72 rooms and a redesigned lobby that will include a coffee shop and subterranean restaurant.

“We are thrilled to announce the acquisition of the Hotel Duncan,” says Tim Franzen, President of Graduate Hotels in a statement from last year. “Built in 1894, the hotel has been a prominent fixture in the New Haven community. We look forward to celebrating some of the hotel’s treasured history, restoring and reintroducing the community to parts of the hotel that have been lost over time, and bringing Graduate Hotels to New Haven. We are truly honored to be stewards of this precious gem for many, many years to come.”

The renovations of the Duncan have come under scrutiny when the hotel’s new proprietors grappled with issues related to zoning over the past few months.

In April, the Board of Alders Legislation Committee gave a public hearing on moving to stabilize and then increasing the number of single-room occupancies, a type of housing in which residents have a private bedroom, but share other communal features such as a kitchen, bathrooms, or entertainment areas, with the focus on providing low- income housing, student housing, or elder housing. Some expensive condo and co-op projects include SRO space set aside for certain employees within the buildings, because the employees could not otherwise afford to live near where they work.

According to Edward Mattison LAW ’68, chair of the City Plan Commission, the Duncan had the option to include SRO’s or not, but chose to forgo them in order to try and become a more high grade hotel. The Duncan Hotel’s new proprietors then agreed in April to a revised single-room occupancy moratorium which would guarantee that the renovation can continue.

Mattison said that when he was involved in the project with the City Plan Commission, the hotel moved to discontinue SROs with the revised moratorium in order to capitalize on the “hot real estate market” in New Haven. He added that all of the SRO tenants were relocated and are satisfied with their relocation.

In an interview with the News, Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ‘19 said that the issues surrounding the SROs of the Hotel Duncan reflect a larger issue of housing costs in New Haven.

“When we had this discussion last year, the issue was around affordable housing in New Haven,” Catalbasoglu said. “The Duncan used to to offer subsidized housing — it no longer will.”

Catalbasoglu said that from these discussions, the Affordable Housing Task Force was created, which is continuing to look into the issue.

“Moving forward, I hope we all consider the impact on our housing inventory future developments, like that of Hotel Duncan, will have on our low-income residents and communities as a whole,” he said.

According to the New Haven Register, Attorney Caroline Kone, who represents the Duncan, her client has previously said that the SRO moratorium was proposed as a way of pressuring the hotel’s new owners to sign a neutrality agreement on recognizing Unite HERE as representing its workers.

According to Graduate Hotels, the hotel will undergo a comprehensive renovation while keeping the historic charm of the building. They intend on preserving the hotel’s manually operated elevator – the oldest in the state.

When it opens, The Graduate New Haven will be located on 1151 Chapel St.

Caroline Moore |

Eamonn Smith |