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Oxford to convert historic London office building to life sciences hub

1920s building to contain 220,000 sq. ft. of wet lab-capable space; part of JV with Pioneer Group

Oxford Properties Group and Pioneer Group plan to turn Victoria House into a life sciences hub. (Courtesy Oxford Property Group)

Oxford Properties Group and its partner Pioneer Group plan to convert a historic 300,000-square-foot office building in London, U.K., into a life sciences hub, expanding Oxford's global push into the sector.

The Toronto-based real estate investor and developer is collaborating with London-based Pioneer, a real estate developer and operator with a focus on life sciences and technology facilities.

In the announcement, Oxford and Pioneer say they will turn Victoria House in Bloomsbury Square, located in central London, into a 220,000-square-foot life sciences hub with 80,000 square feet of office, amenity, meeting and retail spaces. The building will host the BioIndustry Association (BIA), the trade association for U.K. life sciences companies.

The first phase of the transition is expected to be complete in August 2024.

Abigail Shapiro, the head of life sciences and residential, Europe at Oxford, said in the release, “The conversion of Victoria House is a unique opportunity to deliver one of the largest life sciences conversion projects in Central London to date.”

Pioneer Group CEO Richard O’Boyle said he looks forward to supporting the local community in meeting growing demand from life sciences organizations that seek amenities and the prime locations to attract talent.

About Victoria House

Victoria House is a Grade II-listed building constructed in the 1920s and operated as the head office of the Liverpool Victoria building society until 1996, according to the release.

Oxford and Pioneer plans include converting the 220,000 square feet of internal space into a Grade-A, wet lab-enabled, life sciences space.

The remaining 80,000 square feet will be used for offices, amenities, meeting and retail purposes featuring “heritage meeting rooms, an eighth-floor club lounge and a roof terrace overlooking Central London.”

To bolster its sustainability, the project will seek BREEAM Excellent certification and targets an EPC A energy rating.

Conversion is currently underway, with the first phase of 190,000 square feet of lab-enabled space, with a fully fitted incubator and grow-on space, due for completion in the fall of 2024.

“This gives the project an important early-mover advantage,” the release said, “with the vast majority of new London life science projects not expected to be delivered until at least 2026.”

There was no cost disclosed for the conversion.

Oxford’s interest in life sciences

The release gave several reasons for the conversion of Victoria House. The property’s floor-to-ceiling height, internal infrastructure and scale of the floor plates makes it ideal for conversion, Oxford and Pioneer believe.

The building is also in “prime location” and located within London’s Knowledge Quarter in the immediate vicinity of the King’s Cross life sciences hub where it will neighbour universities, hospitals and medical research centres.

“Given Victoria House’s central location and proximity to many educational and medical establishments, as well as investment capital targeting research and development in the sector, it provides the perfect ingredients for the creation of a new life sciences hub,” Shapiro said in the announcement.

The U.K. has invested significant sums into life sciences, exemplified by a recent $1.1 billion government package designed to spur occupier demand.

There is a “critical shortage” of commercially available lab space in London, the release states, with research from Savills showing functional full occupancy has been reached with a sub-one per cent vacancy rate as of Q1 2023.

Oxford has been taking interest in life sciences markets since 2017, with a current eight million square feet of completed, conversion and ground-up development.

It entered the U.K. life sciences market with a $77.2 million purchase for 310 Cambridge Science Park, and spent almost $1 billion on four assets in the U.S.

Oxford reports having completed approximately $4.2 billion of life sciences investment since 2021 and has secured $6.8 billion of follow-on development opportunities.

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