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No decision on future of Masonic Hall conference centre
The Oxford Centre in Banbury Road has been sold to the Oxford-based building company Homespace.
There has been speculation about the future of the centre at 333 Banbury Road in Summertown since its closure last month as one of the city’s foremost conference venues.
The centre was put on the market by the Oxfordshire Masonic Hall Company, with eight members of staff made redundant. It put the decision to sell down to lack of conference trade, making it increasingly difficult to cover maintenance and operating costs.
The centre sits in 1.3 acres of grounds, offering a major development opportunity in north Oxford.
But the new owners Homespace Ltd said no decision had been taken about the site’s future use.
The company, based in Blandford Avenue, Oxford, specialises in building highly efficient new homes in Oxfordshire incorporating latest green technologies, and in refurbishment work.
Its managing director, Victor Regoczy, said that it was likely that the building would be saved, although it would require extensive work. He added that the company had not ruled out continuing to use it as a conference centre.
Mr Regoczy said: “That is quite possible. If there is a case, we would go for it.
“We will probably keep the building. We will have to do something with it but we just do not yet know what that is. We only acquired it a week ago so plans are not advanced.
“There are various alternatives. We shall soon be discussing the various options with Oxford City Council. One of the ideas is to improve it as a commercial venue.”
The building, which dates from 1823, was historically known as Summerhill. The site was acquired by the Masons more than 50 years ago.
With 11 rooms, the centre is able to cater for up to 300 people. Competition in the local conference trade has intensified in recent years with Oxford colleges and prominent university buildings like the Examination Schools having entered the market, along with new hotels.
The Oxford Centre has also been the main meetings venue for more than 55 Masonic lodges over many years.
The executive director of the Oxfordshire Masonic Hall Company, Keith Mitchell, said: “We are now actively looking for new and smaller premises, primarily for Masonry.”