Oxford’s iconic Boswells site could receive a new breath of life as a 4-star boutique hotel under proposals unveiled as part of a partnership between leading developer Reef Group and Oxford City Council.

The 282-year-old department store, which announced in November 2019 its intention to close in 2020, is being proposed for transformation into a modern and convenient hotel at the heart of Oxford’s historic city centre. Reef Group will be submitting a planning application for The Store Hotel to Oxford City Council later this year and will be hosting a live public consultation on 22 July.

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 within the city centre. The Store Hotel will provide much-needed new hotel and restaurant facilities in the city centre to help attract tourists and other visitors to Oxford in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. The plans include co-work facilities, a restaurant, a bar and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city’s iconic skyline, all open to the public.

Reef Group is conscious of Boswells’ heritage and its place in the affections of local residents. There is a strong desire to link the building back to its history, and great care has been taken to ensure that the building’s frontage on Broad Street and Cornmarket Street will be preserved and enhanced.

In order to produce a new hotel which best serves the needs of the community, Reef Group will carry out a public consultation, allowing local residents and businesses to provide their feedback on the plans. The developer had initially planned to hold a public exhibition on its proposals; however, due to the ongoing restrictions imposed by COVID-19, there will instead be a live webinar on Wednesday 22nd July 2020 at 5pm. There will be an opportunity to see more details on The Store Hotel and ask questions of the project team. People who cannot access the webinar will be given the opportunity to receive additional information and speak directly to individuals working across the scheme.

Further details on the proposed hotel and how to take part in the consultation and webinar can be found elsewhere on the website.

Cllr Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council, has welcomed the proposals, commenting: “Boswells was a landmark institution in Oxford, and I was very sorry to see it close. 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.”

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 and the wider local community to bring forward a scheme which provides excellent new facilities while respecting the site’s heritage.”

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. 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.”

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