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Perennial Virant

Chicagoan Ben Weprin launching Graduate Hotels

Chicagoan Ben Weprin launching Graduate Hotels

The night after I graduated from Northwestern, I stayed with my parents in a Fairfield Inn in Gurnee, 32 miles north of campus.

It was the closest room my family could find and afford. More than a decade later, downtown Evanston boasts all of five "hotels," a tight enough market to choke wallets on peak weekends.

Chicago hotel developer Ben Weprin, 36, thinks college towns remain underserved and is launching a hotel chain targeting them. That means Madison, Wis.; Bloomington, Ind.; Oxford, Miss.; Tempe, Ariz.; Charlottesville, Va.; and Athens, Ga., are in line for a new Graduate Hotel.

Weprin's goal is 15 to 20 hotels in five years....