TRANSFORMING Boswells into a luxury hotel could mean people staying longer in Oxford and spending more cash in the city.

That is the claim from a city councillor, as another sneak peek has been revealed of developer the Reef Group's plans to transform the former department store into a four-star boutique hotel.

Artists impressions of the hotel, provisionally called The Store, have previously been showcased, showing bright modern interiors inspired by the art deco era Boswells building on 1-5 Broad Street.

Reef has also spoken about how it wants to offer 101 rooms in the hotel, but design sketches have now been made public, showcasing the layout of the Store.

As the company's plans take another step forward, Mary Clarkson, Oxford City Council's cabinet member for the city centre, covered market and culture, said encouraging more people to stay longer in Oxford could help bring in more cash for local businesses after Covid ends.

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Ms Clarkson said: "While the number of visitors pre-Covid was going up in Oxford, what we have been trying to do alongside Experience Oxfordshire is increase the percentage of people who stay overnight."

According to Ms Clarkson, pre-Covid figures showed 85 per cent of visitors to Oxford were day-trippers, and 15 per cent stayed overnight: but the 'overnighters' represented 60 per cent of overall average spend.

She also said she hoped the plans would help to keep the 'centre of gravity' in the city centre from shifting entirely towards the Westgate, and that it might encourage a developer to take on Debenhams now-closed store for a venture too.

New drawings of the Boswells proposals, released publicly as part of a licensing application to Oxford City Council, show how the basement, ground floor, and upper floors would be reorganised into a hotel.

On the basement level there are plans for a gym, 'communal areas' and back of house maintenance rooms.

Oxford Mail:

A design drawing of the ground floor of the new hotel with reception area, bar and restaurant included. Picture: via Oxford City Council/ UrbanR

On the ground floor there would be a bar, restaurant, reception area, meeting areas, and a few guest bedrooms.

Labour councillor Ms Clarkson said the Reef Group planned for the meeting areas to be used in part as a sort of hotdesk office space by groups of people working away from the office as a break from working at home.

The upper floors would mainly be guest bedrooms, but on a new fifth floor which the developer hopes to build, there would also be a rooftop terrace area.

The application reveals that the Reef Group wants a license to sell alcohol until 2am every day of the week, with the rooftop terrace being one of the areas where drinks would be served until 11pm.

The license application also asks for permission to show films and television, recorded and live music, and also performances of dance.

Oxford City Council owns the freehold of 1-5 Broad Street, and the Reef Group has negotiated to take over the lease from Boswells.

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It is also taking over Boswells building on Cornmarket Street, which is linked to the Broad Street buildings internally.

The council and the company entered into an agreement over plans for the Hotel at a private meeting in December.

Though the outcome of the agreement was discussed behind closed doors, a report to the council said it only earned £1,950 a year leasing the building to Boswells.

Reef expects to hear a decision on a planning application to renovate the building in January 2021.

Boswell and Co started trading in Oxford in 1738.

The store's management announced its doors would close forever in November last year because of adverse trading conditions.

Approximately 70 members of staff were made redundant, and Boswells finally closed in March this year with the first coronavirus lockdown.

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