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IOWA CITY, IA-A joint venture of Davidson Hotel Co. and Rockbridge Capital LLC has purchased the Sheraton Hotel here for more than $20 million. Ashford Hospitality Trust sold the 234-room hotel, which includes 26,000 sf of meeting space and two restaurants with seating for 520 people. Sources say Ashford bought the property in September 2006 for $19 million, and it was built in 1984 for $10 million.

A spokeswoman for Molinaro Koger, which handled the sale for Ashford, says the venture is working on plans for an upgrade to the property. The hotel will retain the Sheraton flag, and Davidson will manage the site. “This is the only full-service hotel that’s near the University of Iowa, all other similar hotels are a few miles away,” the spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com, in explaining why the venture bought the property. “There’s also a doctor-training facility nearby for the Mayo Clinic.”

Davidson, based in Memphis, TN, specializes in hotels based near universities, owning five similar properties; such as the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center-Gainesville and the Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown, near the University of Texas. The company has a goal of owning 10 university-related hotels by 2011, said John Belden, the company’s president and CEO, in a statement, also noting that there’s a lack of noticeable industry focus on this niche. “College towns tend to be very stable, predictable markets that attract a combination of meeting, business and leisure guests, each requiring highly-targeted marketing and service programs,” he said.

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