The former Debenhams department store in Oxford is now being marketed as laboratory space.

After the Debenhams chain went into administration the Oxford branch on the corner of George Street and Magdalen Street closed early in 2021 - it did not reopen after the third lockdown.

It is now almost three years since the closure announcement.

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Following the closure the building's owners - DTZ Investors which acts on behalf of Strathclyde Pension Fund - said it was looking at alternative uses.

Now the city council has revealed that the large unit could be used for laboratory space.

Earlier this year a trader's leader suggested that student accommodation or offices were possible options.

Oxford Mail: Debenhams in OxfordCity council spokesman Tony Ecclestone said: "The long lease came to the market in August this year, marketed by Savills.

"It is being marketed as a laboratory, office or other development of scale and we understand there has been significant interest."

Graham Jones, of ROX - Backing Oxford Business, said in August he did not think the former department store unit would be used again for retail purposes.

He said at the time: "I can't see any retailer wanting to take on that amount of space.

"I think the most likely option for the Debenhams building is for one of the colleges to take it for student accommodation, or it could be used for offices.

"Of course we would like to see the Debenhams building used again - we want to see the city centre buzzing on all fronts - not just the Westgate Centre."

Mr Jones added that the arrival of The Store hotel on the site of the former Boswells department store made it less likely that the former Debenhams would become a hotel.

Reef Group has been transforming the former Boswells department store on the corner of Cornmarket and Broad Street into a 101-bedroom boutique hotel with an entrance in Broad Street and it is due to open in the spring.

Oxford Mail: Debenhams in OxfordThe hotel was due to open before the end of the year but there have been unexpected delays according to new manager Simon Drake, including a temporary problem with the power supply.

Boswells closed during the pandemic and did not reopen and then Debenhams became the second city department store to announce its closure.

This has left the city with one remaining department store - John Lewis at the Westgate Centre.

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Some shoppers in Oxford may remember Elliston & Cavell, the department store trading on the Debenhams site before it became Debenhams.

Elliston & Cavell specialised in the latest fashions and its roots could be traced to 1823 when William Delf opened a linen and woollen drapery shop on the site.

Elliston & Cavell became part of the Debenhams group in the early 1950s and the name was consigned to history in 1973 when the group decided all its shops should trade under the Debenhams’ name.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

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