Benchmark transforms former Hotel Durant into the Graduate Berkeley

The former Hotel Durant is now the Graduate Berkeley.

Benchmark, a global hospitality company, added the Graduate Berkeley to its Gemstone Collection. Formerly the historic Hotel Durant, the property has been revitalized and renamed Graduate Berkeley following an extensive renovation. Graduate Berkeley pays homage to the historic building’s roots and UC Berkeley founder, Henry Durant, through its distinct design and revitalization of Henry’s, the hotel’s restaurant and bar. A new boutique hotel brand, Graduate Hotels was founded in 2014 by AJ Capital Partners to create hotels in America’s university-anchored towns. Each hotel reflects the local college and community in its eclectic décor, food and beverage programming options and homage to the school and town it is designed to serve.

“We are delighted to reintroduce this iconic hotel as Graduate Berkeley, and to welcome this new brand to our Gemstone Collection portfolio,” Alex Cabañas, Benchmark’s CEO, said in a statement. “The Gemstone and Graduate brands share the goals of providing highly personalized service and hospitality that reflects the charm and distinctive character of a destination while imaginatively inspiring guests with curated and memory-making experiences. Graduate Berkeley, with its rich history, distinguishing charm and new contemporary design will certainly provide that opportunity.”

Cabañas also noted that since many firms have moved from San Francisco to the East Bay, the area has seen an increase in corporate travel in addition to the numerous visitors drawn to the Berkeley campus for reunions, games, events, college tours, meetings and academic and research projects.

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The Graduate Berkeley's renovated guestrooms

Drawing inspiration from Berkeley’s Bohemian roots, Graduate Berkeley's lobby is decorated in printed velvet walls with Persian motifs, a feature wall of thousands of National Geographic magazines and colorful murals by local artist Chris Lux. In both the public spaces and guestrooms, the furniture and art are curated to feel residential, eccentrically preppy and curated from different eras, as well as all corners of the globe. The same retro vibe is found in the hotel’s 144 guestrooms with original artwork, ceiling fans, touch tone replicas of 1930s telephones and in some rooms, posters from the The Graduate, parts of which were filmed on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. The hotel draws Bay Area residents, visiting scholars and Cal alumni where they can meet, socialize and rest their laptops and tablets on a communal table, and will have access to free, high-speed Wi-Fi.

With 1,050 square feet of conference space, including the California Room and the Boardroom, Graduate Berkeley is designed for meetings, receptions and gatherings. Like other Graduate Hotel properties, the hotel is geared for destination weddings as Berkeley alumni return to the town and university where they first met.

Graduate Hotels is working in partnership with two industry veterans—restaurateurs Bill Chait, himself an alumni of UC Berkeley, and Carl Schuster, longtime managing partner of Wolfgang Puck Catering—to reimagine Henry’s, the hotel’s restaurant and bar. Henry’s will open officially in early Fall. The menu includes an elevated take on traditional pub fare designed to appeal to hotel guests and locals alike.

Graduate Berkeley is set on Durant Street, adjacent to the UC campus and just steps from Shattuck Avenue and its noted shops, restaurants, clubs and galleries. Other nearby attractions include the Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archives. The city of San Francisco is minutes away by the Bay Area Rapid Transit System. The hotel is 15 miles from Oakland International Airport and 25 miles from San Francisco International Airport. 

Existing locations for Graduate Hotels properties include: Ann Arbor, Mich.; Athens, Ga.; Charlottesville, Va.; Lincoln, Neb.; Madison, Wis.; Oxford, Ms.; Richmond, Va.; and Tempe, Ariz. Earlier this year, Graduate Hotels announced plans in 2018 and 2019 to open hotels in Minneapolis; Bloomington, Ind.; Iowa City, Iowa; Seattle; and on New York City’s Roosevelt Island at Cornell Tech’s campus.