The former Debenhams department store in Oxford is close to being bought by a life sciences property developer, according to reports.

It is being reported by EG Radius, a commercial real estate outlet, that a deal worth more than £30m would see the Pioneer Group take over the site.

The Pioneer Group specialise in “high-quality” laboratory and office space to rent.

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It is understood the deal also features a newly created 175-year long-leasehold interest with an annual 7.5 per cent gearing on the contracted rent.

After the Debenhams chain went into administration, the three-storey Oxford branch on the corner of George Street and Magdalen Street closed early in 2021 with it not reopening after the third Covid lockdown.

Oxford Mail: The former Debenhams

Following the closure the building's owners, DTZ Investors, which acts on behalf of Strathclyde Pension Fund whose administering authority is Glasgow City Council, said it was looking at alternative uses for the 126,500 sq ft site.

Once the expected deal is approved it will be the third shopping mall redevelopment project in Pioneer Group’s portfolio alongside Grafton Centre in Cambridge and Victoria House in London.

In December, Oxford City Council revealed the large unit was being marketed by Savills as laboratory space, despite earlier in the year a trader's leader suggesting that student accommodation or offices were possible options.

Debenhams was the second city department store to announce its closure in quick succession as Boswells closed during the pandemic and did not reopen.

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

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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.

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.

The Oxford Mail has approached DTZ Investors and the Pioneer Group for comment but have not received a response.