Three floors of the former Debenhams building in Gloucester will be given over to students, with the county library moving into the ground floor, if the University of Gloucestershire’s plans get the go ahead.
These are just part of the dramatic proposals put forward for public consultation by the university for the empty city centre department store, which overlooks the £85 million redevelopment of King’s Square.
Its detailed plans have been submitted to Gloucester City Council and, if successful, could see work starting on the ‘decade-long project’ in spring 2022, with phase one due to be complete and the first students in from 2023.
Stephen Marston, vice-chancellor of the university, said: ‘There were two major prompts which brought us to the point of deciding to buy Debenhams. The first is bound up in the university’s ambitions to grow in the heart of our community in Gloucestershire.
‘At the same time we have been developing our planning around the size of the university we would like to be. We have ambitions to grow significantly over next decade and we have run out of space.’
Significant remodelling of the inside of the building will be necessary, said Mr Marston, including opening the roof to let light down through the floors, but the facades fronting The Oxbode and King’s Square would be retained.
The three upper floors would be remodelled for teaching, learning, research and staff offices with plans to move its schools of health and social care and education and humanities into the building.
According to Mr Marston, the university sees ‘a lot of growth potential’ in nursing and health courses.
On the ground floor the proposal is to combine the university’s library with the county library and accommodate a health and well-being centre, too.
Architects ADP, which has worked with the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has been appointed – as has construction firm Morgan Sindall Group and project managers, Ridge and Partners LLP.
The project received a boost in November 2021 when it was revealed it had won a share of £20 million of the government’s Levelling Up Fund.
For more information, visit Glos.ac.uk.
By Andrew Merrell