Vintage shoes, a wall of over a hundred sports posters and a giant duck greet guests at the newly opened Graduate Hotel.
The former Hilton in downtown Eugene was bought for $80 million last year by AJ Capital partners. It was one of the largest real estate deals in Lane County history according to the Register-Guard.
Designers took inspiration from the University of Oregon to decorate the interior of the lobby. A giant wooden duck on wheels, custom-made and painted in UO colors, waits to greet guests as they come in. The reception desk is a glass case filled with pre-1990, vintage Nike shoes.
President and CEO of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, Brittany Quick-Warner, has worked closely with the hotel and is impressed with what they’ve done.
“It is uniquely designed to really highlight the parts of our community,” Quick-Warner said. “There’s ducks all in the bathrooms on the wallpaper; there’s track memorabilia; there’s photos of the buttes and rivers we have in the community and its green and gold. It’s obvious this isn’t what any other Graduate Hotel looks like.”
Jason Williams, the manager of the Graduate, said there’s something for everybody at the hotel. However, people who know Eugene’s history will appreciate the hotel’s unique decor. Each room is decorated with paintings depicting Eugene’s landmarks. The lamp doubles as a statue of the Greek god Nike. The bathroom has a diagram on how to wrap a toga, right under a picture of Otis Day, the famous actor from the movie Animal House. The table lamp is a waffle iron, referencing the famous story of how Bill Bowerman, co-founder of the company Nike, created a superior outsole design using only a waffle iron press.
The Graduate brand had been looking to build one of its hotels in Eugene for six years. It researched and talked to members of the community to make sure the hotel would fit. Much of the furniture is second-hand and bought locally, and most of the art in the hallways is from local artists.
“It’s a landmark building. Just because of its size and its height, it’s a building that clearly has new care and attention,” Will Dowdy, urban development manager for the city of Eugene, said. “It takes a landmark and puts its best foot forward, and that reflects really well on the community. You want your prominent buildings looking their best.”
The hotel sits right next to the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, where over 700 events and performances take place each year. Market District Commons sits across from the hotel, as well as the soon-to-be Nike flagship store, and — once construction is finished in 2020 — the area will become a hub for living and shopping downtown.
“It speaks to a growing vitality in downtown,“ Dowdy said, ”The price that they’re paying and the amount of money they’ve put into the project just demonstrates a confidence in the Eugene market and a confidence in downtown.”