Oxford Circus to 'rival Times Square' in transformation drive
Ambitious plans were announced for Oxford Circus on Wednesday with the heart of what’s usually Europe's busiest shopping street (In more normal times) being transformed to create “a rival to Times Square in the centre of the Oxford Street district”.
As part of this, local authority Westminster City Council and major landlord The Crown Estate have launched a design competition to “transform” the space with two new “pedestrian-friendly” piazzas making the area what they said should become “London's front door to the world”.
Work will begin later in the year and is planned to deliver “significant improvements” to the public spaces in and around Oxford Circus with additional planting and seating "to improve the overall look and feel of the area and encourage dwell time”.
The council and the landlord are also working with Transport for London to create improved access to Oxford Circus tube station.
And there will be road closures through the introduction of Experimental Traffic Orders, between Oxford Circus and Great Portland Street to the East, and Oxford Circus and John Princes Street to the West, “turning it into a pedestrian-first zone”. Turning Oxford Street in general into a traffic-free zone has long been an ambition of many stakeholders in the area, but there have been plenty of obstacles and a lot of opposition to this over the years. It seems, however, that with this new plan, that aim could at least partially be achieved.
And what about that competition? The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Design Competition is aimed at ensuring “world-class designs and value for money”. It will be run by RIBA and will be a fully open competition, inviting entries from around the world.
“The reinvention of Oxford Circus as a world-leading, forward-facing, urban space, is the latest step in the council’s ambitious plans to revive Oxford Street and the wider district, for its vision for a greener, smarter future for the West End,” the council said.
It comes after the authority has already committed £150 million to begin upgrade programmes and attract more investment, “taking full advantage of the Elizabeth Line opening in 2022 and the area’s links to the wider West End and beyond”.
Westminster City Council Leader Rachael Robathan said: “These new bold plans to reinvent Oxford Circus will see the first significant redesign of the nation’s favourite high street in decades. We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus will instil much needed confidence in the West End and support local businesses severely affected by the pandemic. We want to bring the excitement and buzz back to these famous streets.”
And Crown Estate CEO Dan Labbad added: “There is an urgent need to tackle issues with pedestrian congestion and safety, poor air quality and noise. The serious congestion of Oxford Circus, of people and of traffic, is unsustainable and demands action. In the aftermath of the pandemic. There is an overwhelming need and a compelling opportunity to build back better; a business-as-usual approach will no longer work.”
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