Oxford City Council invites organisations to create pop-up community space, co-working centre or shop in George Street

Published: Thursday, 3rd October 2019

Oxford City Council is inviting businesses, social enterprises and cultural organisations to put forward proposals to open a community space, co-working centre or pop-up shop in Oxford city centre.

In July the City Council introduced a new initiative to help bring empty units back into use more quickly by connecting businesses and organisations with the landlords and agents of vacant city centre units.

The hope is that, by acting as a facilitator, the City Council can make it easier for landlords and agents to temporarily fill vacant units in Oxford with ‘meanwhile use’ ventures and pop-ups, while they continue negotiations with more permanent traders.

Now the City Council is offering a 12-month ‘meanwhile use’ opportunity in 1-3 George Street – one of the busiest streets in Oxford city centre.

The property is over five floors and comprises:

  • A ground floor of about 2,000sqft, which has most recently had a retail use
  • Three upper floors, each of about 750sqft, which are accessible via a separate on-street doorway and stairs, and were most recently occupied by a dental practice
  • A basement of about 375sqft

The ‘meanwhile use’ proposals could be retail, office or co-working, arts or cultural, a community hub or social enterprise, or an innovative alternative.

The wider aim of the initiative is to nurture up-and-coming businesses and organisations to grow or try something new by offering them a taster of operating in Oxford city centre. It is hoped, if successful, the businesses could move to a longer tenancy of their own in a city centre property.

The City Council is currently working up longer-term plans for 1-3 George Street. It had been hoped that the site could be redeveloped, but during the viability and planning process it became clear there were significant archaeological and heritage issues that made the scheme unaffordable.

Earlier this year, the City Council re-let neighbouring 5 George Street to the Italian restaurant chain ASK.

In July the City Council held a ‘meanwhile use’ event to bring together businesses and organisations with experience of or interest in short term or pop up uses. This event attracted an initial nine ‘meanwhile use’ proposals, which the City Council has already shared with city centre landlords and agents.

The City Council has also let a unit in the Covered Market to Independent Oxford to act as a space to nurture small traders. The unit will feature a collection of 20 independent and local businesses – offering each a taste of operating in the Covered Market and an opportunity to grow.

Footfall is up across the city centre, and is bucking the national trend. According to the UK High Street Index, footfall is down by an average of 3.3% across the country on last year – but Oxford has seen a rise of 8.1% over the same period.

The number of vacant units in the city centre is also improving. Last month, 11.2% of the 581 ground floor units in Oxford city centre were listed as currently vacant – down from 12.4% in March – but of those 65 vacant units 17 were under offer or close to agreeing a new tenancy, and 16 are being redeveloped and so are not currently available to let.

“Oxford City Council is committed to supporting and nurturing small, independent local businesses and organisations to succeed – and to creating a thriving city centre.

“This is an exciting opportunity that brings those two commitments together, and provides businesses, social enterprises and cultural organisations a taster of operating in one of Oxford city centre’s busiest streets.

“We hope other city centre landlords and agents will follow up the initial interest they’ve shown and offer their temporarily vacant units for further meanwhile use – to add to the vibrancy and attraction of our world famous city centre.

“With 5 George Street having now been let on a longer lease to ASK, we have a stable income stream which can be used to support local public services.”

Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council

For more information about the ‘meanwhile use’ opportunity in George Street, and to put forward proposals, please email: citycentre@oxford.gov.uk.