Hilton Garden Inn Durham Durham, NC

The Challenge

Develop a select service franchise hotel during the toughest recession in decades. Olympia worked to develop this site from 2007 until the hotel opening in 2014. During the economic downturn, Olympia secured its rights to the land while taking the opportunity to drive efficiency from the building design by shrinking the ground floor program and moving the laundry facilities to the 2nd floor.



Olympia worked with the local community and the abutting property owners to create a building façade that was appropriate for the well-established Ninth Street neighborhood. The building was orientated so that street visibility of the existing Erwin Square office tower was maintained and so that a buffer was created between the busy W Main Street and neighboring railroad and the hotel. Leveraging its strong relationship with Hilton Hotels, Olympia designed a hotel that felt contextual to its historic local environment, yet met the demands franchise design and construction standards.



The Hilton Garden Inn Durham University / Medical Center combines the aesthetic of historical Durham warehouse architecture with the modern functionality of the Hilton Garden Inn brand design. The constrained site prevented the construction of a prototypical Hilton Garden Inn with separate single story pavilion in front of the guestroom tower. Also, the exterior design aesthetic of the prototype HGI brand was not a good fit for the Ninth St corridor and surrounding neighborhood.


Olympia wanted the hotel to feel like an established part of the neighborhood, rather than a recent addition. Working with our neighbors and local business leaders, we designed a building that combined the classic red brick façade and linear building massing found in warehouses and other historic structures throughout the Raleigh / Durham area with touches of modernity, for example in the architectural louvers with integrated downlights and sleek fenestration of the guestroom windows. From a design standpoint, the building forms a bridge between the historic Mill Building to the east and the contemporary Erwin Square Office tower to the west and sits confidently alongside both properties.


Once an exterior building aesthetic was selected, Olympia worked with the Hilton Garden Inn Franchise team to meet the functional needs of their hotel program. The ground floor ceiling was raised to give the feeling of openness typically found in the HGI lobby design and the active elements of the ground floor, such as the bar, restaurant and pool, were located on the Main St side of the building to help animate the curbside experience. Interior lobby finishes were customized to provide the same blend of classic high-end finishes (such as the extensive millwork) with contemporary flair (such as the bold fabrics and artwork) that is found on the building exterior.


A few design details:


  • The windows facing West Main St have been upgraded to a custom built triple-glazed system to minimize the disturbance to guests from the adjacent train line.
  • Guestroom and Public Area artwork was created using pictures of Durham and the surrounding area taken by a renowned local photographer.
  • The building parapets have been built up to screen roof top mechanical equipment from our neighbors and from W Main St.
  • A fence and landscaping buffer along W Main St provides screening for guests using the seating areas outside the pool and the bar, but still provides excellent drive-by visibility for the hotel.
  • An extensive bio-retention system that handles stormwater from the site forms a natural buffer between the hotel and the apartment building development to the north.
  • External equipment such as electric transformer, generator, backflow preventors, etc are located to the NE of the building, away from the Main St elevation and the main building entry.
  • Site details, such as lighting, bollards, brickwork, and other materials were selected to match those used in Erwin Square, making the hotel feel like an established part of the existing development.
  • The hotel provides an easy to use pedestrian link between Erwin Square and the Mill Building (and beyond that, to Ninth St).


The Hilton Garden Inn Durham University / Medical Center is an excellent example of contextually appropriate building design, blending the modern and historic, while meeting the needs of the Hilton Garden Inn Franchise, the Hotel Operator and, most importantly, their guests.



Olympia managed a complicated Value Engineering process with the Design and Construction team before starting construction to ensure that the hotel was delivered at best value to its investors.



Olympia managed the specification, procurement and installation process for all FF&E and Owner Direct purchases. Olympia worked with the General Contractor and the City of Durham to ensure that Guestroom FF&E could be installed by floor towards the end of the construction process in order to minimize the time period between construction completion and hotel opening.



This project was designed and constructed to exacting LEED standards. Certification for the project is currently pending. Examples of sustainable design at this hotel include:


  • High efficient Vertical Packaged Terminal Air Conditioning units for the guestrooms. These units were significantly cheaper than Water Source Heat Pumps, but met the efficiency criteria for LEED.
  • Stormwater treatment on site. Olympia designed a bio-retention system for stormwater management that reduces, pre-treats and stores stormwater before distribution to municipal system. In addition, stormwater is used to supply the landscape irrigation system, thus reducing the use of potable water for irrigation.
  • Bicycle storage and shower facilities: these are provided for guests and employees.
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures: These were selected throughout the hotel, including motion sensing faucets and flush valves in the public restrooms.

Project Team


Development Partner
SMART Hotels

Goodwin Associates P.A.

Interior Designer
Monolith Hospitality

General Contractor
Dargan Construction

Structural Engineer
Warner Engineering

Civil Engineer

MEP Engineer
Titan Mechanical

Commissioning Agent

Year Opened


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Servicing Duke University and Duke Medical Center

Olympia converted this ideal site into a 128-room hotel project that would be the top choice for visitors to Duke University and Duke Medical Center.  Walking distance to 9th Street and bordering campus, Hilton Garden Inn Durham/University Medical Center developed a top market position within 90 days of opening.


The hotel was built to LEED Silver standards and has achieved the highest rating for environmental focus (three dogwood blossoms) by the NC Green Travel program developed by the North Carolina Department of Environment & Natural Resources.


Ranked Top 10 for Guest Service & Loyalty

The operating team ‘special care’ of patients and other service endeavors has led to a consistent placement in the Top 10 hotels for guest service and loyalty in the HGI brand, as well as the top rank in Trip Advisor (1 of 67 hotels).


Hilton Garden Inn Durham/University Medical Center is the second hotel developed with Olympia’s strategic partner, SMART Hotels Group.


At a Glance


2102 West Main Street
Durham, NC  27705

(919) 286-0774



Meeting Space (SF)

University Affiliation
Duke University

Special Amenities
★ Fitness Room and Pool

Awards & Accolades
★ Anticipated LEED certification
★ Hilton Worldwide 2015 North American Connie Pride Hotel of the Year Award


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