Thursday, March 19, 2009

GMU Courts Commerce in Fairfax



One of the Virginia commonwealth’s largest public educational institutions, George Mason University, will be getting in on a little private commerce this coming May, when it officially breaks ground on its new $30 million hotel and conference center: the George Mason Inn.

Developed in conjunction with University Hotel Partners, the Inn is to be the newest addition to GMU’s flagship Fairfax campus. Once completed, the development will stand between Braddock Road and University Drive on six-acre parcel close to the university’s Patriots Village dormitory complex. Plans prepared by Gensler Architects call for a seven-story, 150-room hotel to be built alongside a 20,000 square foot flex-space conference center that will include a 175-225 seat restaurant, in addition to meeting, banquet, business and lounge areas.

GMU has already taken hotel operators Aramark Harrison Lodging, which operates fifteen similar “collegiate conference center/hotels” throughout the country, to manage the day-to-day functions of the center. The University has stated its intent to use the facility as a “campus living room,” since according to their projections, “university use accounts for 55% of meeting [and] guest room space.” Which isn’t to say that GMU will be hurting to fill the rest of their vacancies; as Virginia’s second largest university, GMU draws upwards of three million visitors per year to the Fairfax campus alone.

It seems logical enough then that provisions for a conference center and hotel at the university have been bandied about since 2002, when they were first included in a County Master Plan governing the site. With seven years of lead time, GMU has had plenty of time to secure financing for the project; its $30 million budget is to be drawn from state-backed bonds and, once open for business in the fall/winter of 2010, the Inn will be owned entirely by the University. Balfour Beatty will oversee construction.

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