WHEN family-run department store Boswell’s closed in April it marked the end of a glittering retail history which began in 1738.

After announcing in November the store was to close, due to adverse trading conditions, about 70 staff were made redundant and Boswells never reopened following the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Now it looks like the iconic building on the corner of Cornmarket Street and Broad Street is to get a new lease of life as plans were announced today to transform the former retail space into a new hotel and restaurant.

Oxford Mail:

Proposals for the four-star boutique hotel have now been revealed as part of a partnership between developer Reef Group and Oxford City Council.

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The London-based property investment company will be submitting a planning application for The Store Hotel to the council later this year and will be hosting a live online public consultation on July 15.

The company claims that despite being a tourism hotspot, and the site of one of the world’s leading universities, Oxford has a shortage of high-quality hotels with restaurants in the city centre.

Oxford Mail:

Reef said The Store Hotel would provide much-needed new facilities in the city centre to help attract tourists and other visitors in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plans include a restaurant, a bar and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city’s iconic skyline, all open to the public, and some office space.

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Ed Turner, deputy leader of Oxford City Council, has welcomed the proposals, adding: “Boswells was a landmark institution in Oxford, and I was very sorry to see it close.

Oxford Mail:

"The building it occupied is historic, with a complex footprint that is not easy to repurpose for other retail use. Therefore, the council is working with partners to transform the space into a hotel – potentially including some public areas – using an approach that appropriately respects the heritage of the building. It is early days, but we think seeing this happen would be a real vote of confidence in Oxford city centre and give our tourism sector a much-needed shot in the arm.”

Part of the Boswells building - the Broad Street side - was leased from the city council.

Oxford Mail:

Boswells directors last year hired London-based retail property consultants GCW to advise on the sale of the city centre building.

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Reef Group said it was conscious of the store’s heritage and ‘great care’ would be taken to ensure that the building’s frontage on Broad Street and Cornmarket Street will be preserved and enhanced.

There will be a live webinar on Wednesday, July 15 at 5pm, with an opportunity to see more details on The Store Hotel plans by visiting thestorehoteloxford.co.uk.

Oxford Mail:

Will Rohleder at Reef Group, added: “This project is an exciting opportunity for a new boutique hotel in Oxford City Centre which will benefit both local residents and the wider Oxford economy.

“We look forward to working with Oxford City Council.”

Hayley Beer-Gamage, chief executive of tourism organisation Experience Oxfordshire, said: “This is an exciting proposed development for the city of Oxford and a welcome sign of inward investment in a post Covid-19 environment.

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“Our ambition statement clearly focuses on increasing length of stay and having high quality visitor accommodation is key to that.

"Having a development that is looking to enhance the landscape of the city whilst preserving the heritage of the building is an innovative approach to redeveloping and enhancing this site.”