Rendering by the Graduate Hotel

Graduate Hotels, a chain that operates 33 locations in the U.S. and England, mostly in college towns, is nearing completion of a new 180-room hotel in Princeton at the corner of Nassau and Chambers streets. The opening was originally scheduled for May, but in late March, the hotel pushed its target back to early June and began taking reservations.

“Princeton is the quintessential college experience,” Graduate Hotels founder Ben Weprin told PAW. “When we first started Graduate, Princeton was at the top of our list. … The history, the heritage, the backdrop, the charm, the sophistication — it’s just the idea of what somebody thinks college looks like in America.”

The hotel, in turn, will take design cues from the University. Renderings of the lobby show wooden bookcases, ornamental tigers, framed class jackets, and a palette of orange and black. The design team interviewed alumni to gather information about meaningful Princeton landmarks and traditions. In the guest rooms, headboards have been fashioned to emulate the 19th century student canes that inspired the first cane spree. Bedside lamps resemble the cannon on Cannon Green (including a floral detail visible in archival photos but now hidden underground).

Weprin launched the first two Graduate locations — Athens, Georgia; and Tempe, Arizona — in 2014, and in a 2016 Wall Street Journal interview, he mentioned his interest in buying the Nassau Inn. That never materialized, so he went searching for other options.

Plans for the building were approved in February 2021, and construction began the following year. The project incorporates the existing building at 20 Nassau St. — a century-old, five-story brick Colonial revival structure — as well as new construction along Chambers Street, where the main entrance will be. The hotel will nearly double the guest-room capacity in town. (The Nassau Inn has 188 rooms and the Peacock Inn 16.)

Graduate officials estimated in 2021 that construction of the new hotel would cost more than $100 million, and Weprin confirmed that price tag. “We spent a lot because we think it merits it,” he said. “It’s an elevated product for an elevated community, an elevated market.”

Getting approval for a new hotel in downtown Princeton was not without obstacles, including a series of zoning meetings and objections from neighbors on Bank Street, to the west of the hotel site. “When people are super passionate about where they live and where they’re from, you expect that as part of the process,” Weprin said. “Our job is to prove our commitment and our dedication to each one of these markets.” 

Editor’s note: This story was updated from the print edition to include a change in the opening date.