Work is under way to convert the former Boswells department store into a city centre hotel.

Reef Group has been given planning permission by the city council and contractors have now put up scaffolding on the Broad Street side of the building.

Eleanor Alexander, a design director leading the project for Reef, said the company hoped the hotel would be ready to open in the spring or summer of 2023.

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In June Reef completed the purchase of the building as part of a joint venture with La Salle Investment Management and Oxford City Council.

Oxford Mail:

Reef completed a joint venture with the council and British Airways Pension Fund on the redevelopment of 4/5 Queen Street and St Aldate’s in 2018.

It will now create a101-bed hotel, ground floor restaurant, bar and co-work space to replace Boswells.

Reef’s contractor, Gilbert Ash, has now started on site and the work will include the retention of the historic facades, part demolition, and the addition of a fifth floor which will include a rooftop bar and external space overlooking the rooftops.

Oxford Mail:

City council leader Susan Brown said: “The sensitive refurbishment of the former Boswells department store to create a quality hotel is key to the ongoing rejuvenation of our city centre.

“Adapting the spaces for multiple uses will help ensure that this iconic building thrives for decades to come, and we look forward to the next stage of this project.”

Reef’s website said: “Reef will operate this new boutique hotel following practical completion.

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“The design will have take reference to the site’s historic past and will also include a spa and co-workspace which will be open to the general public.

“Reef worked collaboratively with the owners and council to maximise value for all parties and importantly to realise the key benefits of this significant regeneration for the city centre in a post pandemic world.

Oxford Mail:

“The Reef team are extremely excited about the addition of this asset to their hotel portfolio which also includes The Gate in London and the Marriott in South Oxfordshire.”

Shoppers were devastated in 2019 when directors announced that Boswells would close due to adverse trading conditions.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck at the beginning of 2020 and only the chemist reopened before Boswells shut for good.

The company had a trading history dating back to 1738 and was the second oldest family-owned department store in the world.

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Directors announced in 2019 that Boswells would have to close because it was no longer making a profit.

Oxford Mail:

Debenhams in Magdalen Street has also closed as part of a countrywide closure programme and the building could be turned into a hotel or office space.

The Debenhams chain went into administration in 2020. John Lewis in the Westgate Centre opened in 2017 and is the city’s only remaining department store.