In Pictures: The Grand Opening of The Forum Hotel at UVA Darden
By Dave Hendrick
The University of Virginia community celebrated a dramatic enhancement to North Grounds with the grand opening and ribbon cutting of The Forum Hotel on 26 April.
The event drew roughly 200 university leaders, alumni and community members as well as executives from Intercontinental Hotels Group — whose Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants unit operates the property. Guests enjoyed multiple bands and DJs, gourmet snacks and hand-crafted refreshments, and a clearly stated vision for how the property will further the School’s capabilities and education experience.
“As you will learn today, The Forum Hotel is critical to Darden’s academic mission and learning experience, and it’s Kimpton’s first ever on-campus hotel,” said Darden Dean Scott Beardsley. “To put it simply: The property combines world-class education and world-class hospitality.”
The hotel, which replaced the UVA Inn at Darden, features 198 guest rooms and two restaurants — Birch & Bloom, a modern steakhouse, and The Good Sport, a craft beer bar. More than 22,000 square feet of gathering and classroom space, including a ballroom, tiered and flat classrooms and small meeting spaces, open up new avenues for instruction and gatherings, while a six-acre arboretum and botanical garden adds connectivity to North Grounds and Charlottesville.
UVA President Jim Ryan, who also spoke at the opening, lauded the project as “both elegant and practical” and called The Forum a new asset for Darden, UVA and the community.
The hotel is owned by the Darden School Foundation and operated by Kimpton.
Scenes from the Celebration
Elie Maalouf (MBA ’89), CEO of the Americas for IHG Hotels & Resorts, called the opening a “special and personal milestone” given his personal history and ongoing engagement with the Darden School.
“We’re honored that you’ve entrusted us to bring this stunning property to life,” Maalouf said. “I strongly believe that The Forum will become a warm and welcoming place for the entire UVA, Darden and Charlottesville communities.”
The hotel formally opened on 12 April, with Darden Executive MBA students in Charlottesville for a leadership residency serving as the first guests.
The project was jumpstarted by Frank Sands Sr. (MBA ’63) and his wife, Marjorie Sands, who in 2019 made a $20 million gift. More than 100 donors eventually followed their lead, making the hotel a reality.
Frank Sands (MBA ’94), who serves as vice chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, spoke about the importance of the education and the Darden School to his parents, who he said would have been “thrilled” to see the eventual outcome of their efforts.
“The Sands Family believes the Darden School is a force for good that creates capable leaders that can help create a better world,” Sands said, adding that “our hope for The Forum Hotel is that it is a place where relationships and great ideas are created and can flourish.”
Although known as The Forum Hotel, the property will officially be designated the Frank M. Sands Sr. and Marjorie R. Sands Hotel at Darden and Conference Center for Lifelong Learning in perpetuity.
Ashley Williams, CEO and chief learning officer of Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning ands the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning, detailed The Forum’s role in lifelong learning capabilities at Darden, and said learners were held in the forefront of construction plans.
Area civic leaders attending the event included Virginia House of Delegates member Sally Hudson, State Senator Creigh Deeds, Jack Jouett District Supervisor Diantha McKeel and Scottsville District Supervisor and Chair Donna Price of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, and Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook, among others.
Following remarks and the ribbon-cutting, guests toured the property, enjoyed a variety of refreshments and envisioned the programs and possibilities unlocked by the new hotel.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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