West End's £2.9bn investment to 'radically transform' Oxford Street
Brexit may be casting a shadow over the UK economy, but the West End of London is continuing to boom. And with the investment that’s being pumped into it, not only is that situation not set to change any time soon, but the area is set to see a “radical” transformation in the next three years.
On Wednesday, New West End Company, the representative of Oxford, Bond and Regent Street businesses, said a total of £2.9 billion will be invested within a one mile radius of Oxford Street by 2022 to drive that transformation.
It said “this will drastically change the world’s most famous high street,” and marks the biggest change Oxford Street in particular has seen in more than 50 years.
The investment includes money already earmarked as part of major infrastructure projects but it also includes a record-level quarter-of-a billion-pound spend on the look and feel of Oxford Street itself. This will see it emerging as a cultural destination as well as a shopping one as landlords focus on experiences as the key way to drive footfall.
The development will come as 60 million new West End visits are expected to boost spending in the area to £13.2 billion by 2022 as a result of transport projects Crossrail and the Elizabeth Line.
NWEC’s “1,000-day countdown” to 2022 comes after a challenging 10 years that has included the long stop-start campaign for pedestrianisation on Oxford Street as well as Crossrail’s delayed opening.
But it said that the £2.9 billion investment that’s happening in the next few years “is set to re-affirm Oxford Street as a global shopping and leisure destination for the 21st century”.
Crossrail and the Elizabeth Line will eventually be ready in 2021 and “will make Oxford Street the best-connected shopping district in the world,” NWEC said. Heathrow Airport will be just over 30 minutes away, connecting Paris and Amsterdam within two hours. The extra shoppers this will attract should see numbers up 40% compared to 2019.
An important part of the transformation is Westminster City Council’s and The Mayor of London’s new approach to the ‘International Centre’ classification of the West End, that’s set to be ratified in 2020. NWEC said this "will fundamentally change how landlords and occupiers can use the street. A blanket approach to the retention of back-to-back retail frontages is being replaced with greater flexibility for uses that complement the international centre’s primary comparison retail role, and enable this to continue to thrive. Subject to detailed considerations, this could include more mixed uses alongside retail — from showrooms to cultural spaces, food and leisure activities, to community events and evening attractions”.
The body thinks this “will add value to businesses and make Oxford Street a more vibrant shopping destination, with an invigorated evening economy and longer dwell times. New West End Company believe that this also lays the foundations for an extension of Sunday trading for an additional two hours, aligning London to international city benchmarks; if approved it will provide an additional £260 million annual boost to the West End”.
NWEC also said that “in the fast-changing retail environment, the sector is going through a shift in how consumers spend, with expectations for experiential retail at their height. With every major retailer and 218 international brands, the West End is not immune to these challenges. Property owners across the district are responding to these changes in new and exciting ways with £1 billion being invested in new developments and refurbishments on Oxford Street alone".
Over the last 12 months Oxford Street has welcomed many new well-known international brands including Microsoft and department store Flannels "both with their own experiential take on luxury shopping", as well as Market Hall, the first all food concept on Oxford Street and the UK’s largest food hall. Over the coming months, planned mixed-use developments like Derwent London’s Soho Place with the first new theatre in the West End for 50 years in Oxford Street East, alongside Selfridges’ planned permanent cinema in Oxford Street West, "ensures the street is book-ended by experience. This opportunity is being seized and the consumer is set to be spoilt with new innovations happening first on Oxford Street”.
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