We’re working with a local social enterprise on a £1.9 million revitalisation of vacant shops to help us bounce back from COVID-19.
The ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ project will see vacant units in high streets across the county transformed into independent shops, cultural venues, creative studios and co-working space during 2021.
Our aim is to provide affordable premises for 112 organisations, which will create or secure at least 300 jobs.
The project will reduce the number of vacant units in the county’s high streets, and enable entrepreneurs to fill them with new and innovative ideas. This will diversify the offer in our city and town centres, and give people more reasons to visit.
Oxford and Oxfordshire are particularly reliant on the visitor economy, so COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our high streets. In Oxford city centre, footfall was down from 3.1 million in 2019 to 1.2 million in 2020.
We’re also hoping the project will encourage a more inclusive local economy by providing units at affordable rent, and giving priority to organisations that pay the Oxford Living Wage and take on apprentices.
Oxford City Council designed ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’, and secured the funding for it from Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership via the Government’s Getting Building Fund.
We’ve commissioned local social enterprise Makespace to run the project. Makespace has formed a consortium with other local organisations to help them identify, secure, fit out and let dozens of empty units, and the county’s other district councils will help find properties and tenants.
Units will be leased from landlords and licenced (at affordable rates) to tenants, and upgraded to meet the needs of the new tenants and reduce carbon emissions. This should make the project an attractive offer for both Oxfordshire’s entrepreneurs and landlords.