Oxford Street regeneration plan fails to convince property sector
Some property experts have dismissed the Westminster City Council plans for the revitalisation post-pandemic of Oxford Street and the surrounding areas.
The plan, which includes a £150 million investment by the local authority, takes in pop-up parks, pavement widening, leisure expansion and a temporary structure at Marble Arch — a climbable hill. The council also wants redundant retail space (of which there could be a lot due to store closures) to be repurposed.
But property experts said all of this ignores the core challenges facing Europe’s premier shopping street. Soho Estates chairman Steve Norris told Property Week that said the plans were “misguided” and vacant flagship stores such as Topshop and Debenhams should be the key focus.
He said: “Marble Arch is not why people come to Oxford Street. The council would be better advised to look at doing something about the public realm on Oxford Street itself, rather than building Alton Towers in the middle of a busy roundabout.”
He feels the solution for the street’s long-term problems are complex and won’t be solved simply by spending a lot of money.
Another senior retail property adviser suggested to the trade magazine that while improvements are a good thing, the council still “haven’t got their heads around retail” as they’re politicians rather than being commercially-focused.
Another central London agent said the street needs “love, care and attention for the retailers and the shoppers and for the whole environment” and not a “hill down the bottom”.
However, the New West End Company, which represents retailers in the area, praised the cash injection.
And it’s possible that a ‘fun’ visitor attraction could be a key feature that helps to keep Oxford Street as a must-visit destination once office workers, and international and domestic tourists return to the area.
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