Oxford Street renaissance: work starts on Soho Photography Quarter
When rows of stores just aren’t enough. Retail areas are increasingly having to incentivise consumers to visit with bolt-on experiences and attractions.
So work has begun to elevate one of the less appealing areas of London’s Oxford Street with a ‘ Soho Photography Quarter’.
The scheme is the first permanent element of Westminster City Council’s £150m plans to transform Oxford Street — which attracts 200 million visitors in a normal year — and the surrounding area.
The project will see the lesser-known Ramillies Street, Ramillies Place, Hills Place and a small section of Great Marlborough Street transformed into a ‘Gateway to Soho’ and a cultural attraction in its own right.
Drawing on the legacy of Soho as a vibrant cultural hub, the Quarter will act as an open-air gallery space for the public with an annual ‘Photographers’ Gallery’ programme of light projections and large-scale art lining the streets “introducing a sense of vibrancy and spectacle to the area”.
Additional seating, ‘greening’ and a multi-layered public arts programme “will encourage people to enjoy the area and its unique character”.
“Together with the new cultural offer, the combination of measures will create a more peaceful and relaxing place for people to take time away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street”, Westminster City Council said.
It noted the area will “feel safer, encouraging visitors to pass through, and enabling those taking in the atmosphere, artistic animation and sounds of the district to experience it fully”.
The council's executive director of Growth, Planning and Housing, Debbie Jackson said: “Our vision for the Oxford Street District sets out to reinvent the nation’s high street.
“We want people to enjoy the time they spend in Oxford Street, to discover new and interesting experience around every corner. The Photography Quarter will turn this relatively unknown part of our city into a canvas for creatives to surprise and delight visitors from across the globe”.
Last month the council launched its framework for the Oxford Street District, which will serve as the blueprint “to reinvent the high street for a post pandemic recovery and, crucially, for the longer term”.
Buzzword themes include ‘greener’, ‘smarter', ‘future’ and ‘together’ to “create a globally competitive centre for innovative retail, commercial activities, culture and living”.
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