Perkins & Will working on plans to transform Oxford Debenhams store into life sciences block

Perkins & Will is working on plans to transform a former Debenhams department store in Oxford into 100,000sq ft of life sciences space.

The practice has been appointed by a development team consisting of the Crown Estate, Oxford Science Enterprises (OSE) and Pioneer Group on the scheme, which is scheduled to begin construction next year.

The three-storey store on the corner of George Street and Magdalen Street closed in early 2021 after the Debenhams chain went into administration. Proposals have yet to be submitted for plannign but it is understood they will involve a refurbishment of the existing building rather than a rebuild.

The Crown Estate has already set aside £125m for the scheme and said its partnership with OSE and Pioneer Group had a long term ambition to invest a total of £1.5 billion into the UK science, technology and innovation sectors.

OSE has worked with academic founders to found, fund and build over 80 spinout companies created from the University of Oxford’s research.

Pioneer Group manages a portfolio of more than four million sq ft of life sciences and laboratory space in locations, including London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Dublin.

Crown Estate chief executive Dan Labbad said the partnership was a long-term commitment to supporting national and regional growth.

“Science, technology and innovation are vital growth sectors for the UK as the nation looks to cement its position at the forefront of innovation globally,” he said. 

“To realise this goal, the sectors must be supported with mission critical partnerships that bring together venture capital and expertise in asset management and property investment, matching the immense talent and ingenuity of the companies that are growing at pace.”

Pioneer Group executive director Richard O’Boyle added that the trio, which is planning several other developments in Oxford, would become a “central nexus for scientific innovation”.

“With the UK’s largest network of life science experts, cutting-edge labs, and robust support systems, we are poised to redefine industry standards and foster a vibrant scientific community. This is just the beginning of a far-reaching and impactful partnership that will enhance innovation across our existing locations and beyond.”

Oxford has been the heart of the UK life sciences industry with a string of major schemes announced, approved and starting construction in the city over the past few years.

Recent proposals include Purcell’s 212,000sq ft Bridge House scheme for developer Reef Group and Scott Bownrigg designs for the £35m expansion of Wootton Science Park in Oxfordshire.

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