Construction is still underway and there’s no firm date for a grand opening, but the new luxury hotel at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is already accepting reservations for July, with more than half of that month already unavailable.
The Forum, a Kimpton Hotel property expected to open this spring, replaces the former Inn at Darden, which was built in 1983, closed in 2020 and demolished in 2021.
The new hotel, Kipton’s only property in Charlottesville and its first on a college campus, is marketing itself much as its predecessor did, touting it as the primary venue for Darden programs, graduations and reunions, as well as a place for overnight Charlottesville visitors.
The Darden School’s executive MBA residents will be the first guests to stay at the Forum after it opens in the spring, according to Ashley Williams, CEO and chief learning officer of executive education and lifelong learning at the Darden School of Business.
Williams told The Daily Progress the new hotel, like the old, will be part of the “Darden experience and community.”
“A hotel is a place to service all of our programs, our executive MBA programs, our Charlottesville residency for our MBA programs, executive education and lifelong learning,” she said.
But Kimpton also intends to provide “world-class hospitality” to “travelers into Charlottesville and the community of Charlottesville,” said Kelly Brown, the future hotel’s general manager.
Those guests can begin booking rooms online for stays as early as July. Prices for the month range from $239 per night on a weekday to $367 per night on the last remaining Saturday available on July 8. It’s a fair amount more than the $154 offered for the cheapest room at the Inn at Darden, according to data from hotel-booking platform Kayak. But that’s not been enough to discourage guests. July already appears 55% booked, according to Kimpton’s site.
Plans for the new hotel off Massie Road call for a “grand, five-story Jeffersonian-style building” with 198 guest rooms, 10 suites that overlook UVa’s North Grounds and more than 11,000 square feet of conference spaces and classrooms. Its size is not unlike the original Inn at Darden, a six-story, 177-key hotel, which also boasted 11,510 square feet of event space and “traditional Jeffersonian décor.”
Plans also call for two restaurants housed within the Forum: a taproom and a dining room with mid-Atlantic cuisine. The original inn’s dining options included the Abbott Center Dining Room, Sloney’s Pub and Cafe ‘67.
While the new hotel remains under the ownership of the independent nonprofit Darden School Foundation, The Forum will operate under the Kimpton flag.
Williams said the hope is that Kimpton will leverage its location on Grounds and relationship with Darden.
“When you look at where Darden is located, north of Central Grounds, it’s really a unique opportunity to bring restaurant spaces, gathering spaces, an arboretum and more together,” she said. “We’re really excited about engaging the entirety of that North Grounds and then connecting to the entire broader university.”
Brown, who moved to Charlottesville in August, promised the Forum will serve as a complement to UVa Grounds. She said Kimpton plans to host outdoor events in the hotel’s 5-acre arboretum and botanical gardens as well as the amphitheater on North Grounds, including a regular outdoor event on the first day of each month.
Brown said the hotel will bring a “unique experience to Charlottesville.” Guests will have access to amenities such as yoga mats in every room and free bikes, as well as daily morning and evening social hours.
Brown also said she is eager to establish a “wonderful workplace culture” for the Charlottesville community.
Fortune magazine ranked Kimpton 44th on its list of 100 “Best Places to Work” last year. Kimpton, based in San Francisco, operates more than 60 hotels in more than 30 U.S. cities, including three in Washington, D.C., and one in Baltimore. Kimpton is part of InterContinental Hotels Group.
Brown and Williams both said there will be job opportunities for students to gain experience in the hospitality industry in the future.
Kimpton has 14 jobs posted online for the future Forum hotel.