Duke plans to open a second on-campus hotel in addition to the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club.
After undergoing renovations, the R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center at the Fuqua School of Business will reopen as the James Buchanan Duke Hotel in January 2017 on Science Drive. The JB Duke Hotel—named after James Buchanan Duke, a tobacco and electricity magnate who founded The Duke Endowment—will include 198 guest rooms overlooking the Duke Forest, a full-service restaurant, meeting rooms and two bars. It will be owned by Duke and managed by WDI Durham Management Company, the same company that manages the Washington Duke Inn.
“The Thomas Center was built more than 25 years ago, and it became woefully out of date,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “It’s just not big enough to handle the expansion of the MBA programs, so there was a scramble to put students in places like the Washington Duke and elsewhere.”
The $62 million project—which is expected to create 120 jobs—will expand the Thomas Center by more than 90,000 square feet and will meet the increased energy efficiency goal of LEED certification.
Built in 1989, the Thomas Center is located at 230 Science Drive adjacent to the Fuqua School of Business and currently serves as living space for Duke's executive students, such as Fuqua MBA students who visit campus for short periods of time. It has been mostly closed for renovations since February 2015, and the existing 110 hotel rooms have been demolished. Most of the old furniture and supplies were donated to the local drug abuse recovery program Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, or TROSA.
According to The Raleigh News and Observer, the JB Duke Hotel will be managed by Gregg Hilker, who described the new hotel as putting a "modern twist on Southern hospitality."
Conference and meeting facilities at the property will include the 20,850-square foot Thomas Executive Conference Center, a 5,450-square foot ballroom, two boardrooms and two classrooms that can each seat 65 people. These will be used by Fuqua's MBA programs as well as non-degree executive education courses hosted by Fuqua.
“When there aren’t executive education programs in there, it will be open to the general public," Schoenfeld said. "By renovating the Thomas Center spaces, it will be a state-of-the-art hotel."