Former Debenhams site in Oxford to turn into science and tech space (GB)

Former Debenhams site in Oxford to turn into science and tech space (GB)

The site of the former Debenhams in Oxford will soon be transformed into a c 9,290m2 life sciences, technology, and innovation space in the heart of the city, as The Crown Estate partners with Oxford Science Enterprises and Pioneer Group to provide vital lab space in the region. 


The Crown Estate acquired the long leasehold of the former Debenhams site from DTZ Investors, with a total investment of c. €146.3m including the purchase price and projected capital investment in the building. Subject to planning, construction will begin next year, with the lab space due to be fully operational by 2027/2028. The site will provide a much-needed, high-specification solution to the needs of Oxford’s fast-growing science, technology, and innovation sectors.


Dan Labbad, Chief Executive at The Crown Estate said: “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. 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. This partnership represents our long-term commitment to supporting national and regional growth, and we hope others in the industry will also come together and continue to invest in sectors that are of significant value to the UK.


Ed Bussey, CEO at Oxford Science Enterprises said: “The UK’s science and technology sector is full of promising businesses with the potential to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges, but they often struggle to access the right lab or start-up space – which can be a significant barrier to entry for companies as they scale. As a key player in Oxford’s innovation ecosystem, we’re proud to partner with The Crown Estate and Pioneer Group to support entrepreneurs and companies working at the forefront of the UK’s science superpower strategy. This collaboration will ensure the next generation of pioneering life science and technology companies have the necessary space to grow their operations in the heart of Oxford and continue to export world-leading research from the region to the world."


Richard O'Boyle, Executive Director at Pioneer Group, said: "We are thrilled to partner with The Crown Estate and Oxford Science Enterprises, two industry-leading organisations, on this pioneering initiative. Our joint effort will not only transform the former Debenhams site into a leading life sciences hub but also deliver extensive developments throughout Oxford. This collaboration will create a central nexus for scientific innovation, supported by our accelerator and launch programs aimed at empowering science entrepreneurs. 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."


Ben Haller, Director at DTZ Investors, said: “We are delighted to complete this geared long-leasehold sale to The Crown Estate whilst retaining the freehold, including a ground floor retail parade at the base of the building.  It achieves a strategic objective for the fund to unlock direct exposure to rental growth and occupier demand in the UK’s life science sector.  We identified the potential for this rare building in the heart of Oxford city centre to become a leading life science facility, with our sale process seeking a high-quality partner to both bring that forward and then operate it.  The new life science venture between The Crown Estate, Pioneer and OSE delivers just that.  Ahead of the sale, DTZ Investors acted to help de-risk the development for the buyer with an array of technical due diligence reports alongside secured power upgrades to the building.  We are excited by the prospects of being aligned to this new opportunity and look forward to seeing the transformation.


JLL acted for The Crown Estate, Hampson Wall acted for Pioneer Group and Savills acted for DTZ Investors.


Image source - Pexels.


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