The Meanwhile in Oxfordshire was an innovative, pilot programme aimed to revitalise vacant shops and buildings following the Covid-19 pandemic.

It saw vacant retail units in high streets across Oxfordshire transformed into independent shops, cultural venues, creative studios and co-working space. It helped accommodate a range of entrepreneurial, ethical and social enterprises in premises on a Meanwhile basis (short-term licence agreements).

The aim was to provide affordable space to start-ups, social enterprises and charities, and increase footfall in Oxfordshire's town centres by providing a wider high street offer. It did this by lowering the barriers and costs to entry to spaces using capital grants, offering leasing and fit-out expertise, and wider business support.

The project was designed by Oxford City Council, carried out by Makespace Oxford, funded by Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), and supported by all Oxfordshire's councils.

Phase 1 of Meanwhile in Oxfordshire, supported by a £1.88m grant from OxLEP, launched in spring 2021 and completed in 2022.

This phase saw Makespace Oxford secure and fit out 27 vacant units across Oxfordshire, which accommodated more than 50 organisations and provided at least 150 jobs.

Makespace Oxford also grew from 3 to 15 employees, established Meanwhile in Oxfordshire hubs across each of Oxfordshire's districts, and raised an additional £400,000 of funding.

The second phase is on track to accommodate more than 100 organisations, and support at least 300 jobs after Phase 2 completes in March 2025.

Success stories

  • YOU Underwear, which opened its first physical shop in Oxford's Covered Market as part of the project, became the UK's highest-scoring B-Corp. They have since secured a traditional lease in a larger unit in the Covered Market
  • The Woolhound incubated and then expanded within the Covered Market, and now supplies wool all over Oxford
  • Gulp Fiction has proven successful in its first six months in the Covered Market, moving towards a sustainable footing after a short period of incubation
  • The Community Works, a meanwhile hub space in central Oxford, has housed a number of creative and community organisations, include Oxford Playhouse and Oxford Poetry Library
  • Lula's Ethiopian and Eritrean Cuisine, based in the Community Works, is listed in the top five Oxford restaurants on TripAdvisor and won a 2022 Travellers' Choice award

Contact the team and get involved

Makespace Oxford and the project team are keen to speak to landlords of vacant high street retail units across Oxfordshire’s town and city centres and possible occupiers. Landlords and occupiers can get in touch with Makespace by visiting the Makespace Oxford website or use the links below:

Occupier Application

Landlord Application

General Enquiry / Contractors

Project timeline

Oxford City Council secured a £1.88m grant from Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership in 2020 to carry out the Meanwhile in Oxfordshire project. In February 2021, the City Council commissioned Makespace Oxford to run the project. Phase one of the project ran from 2021 to 2022. After the first year, Meanwhile in Oxfordshire had secured 22,000 square feet of space, supported 18 organisations and created 68 jobs. Phase two of the project, which will run from 2022 to 2024, will aim to make the project self-funding.

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