Building work starts at the Clarendon Centre

Construction work at the Clarendon Centre
Construction work at the Clarendon Centre

Major changes are under way at the Clarendon shopping centre in Oxford.

Scaffolding has been put up on part of the centre after owners Lothbury announced earlier that it would be diversifying, with the focus no longer solely on retail.

A number of major retailers including Zara moved out, following the revamp of the Westgate Centre in 2017 and while there are still a number of retailers in the centre, there are also empty units.

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Phone company EE is the latest to relocate to the Westgate Centre.

The Clarendon Centre website says: "The site of the Clarendon Centre has evolved many times as retail trends have changed.

"Retail and the way we all shop is still changing, so the Clarendon Centre must change again to keep it vibrant and active, and contribute to a lively town centre."

In April, plans to partially demolish the centre to provide more student accommodation were approved by the council.

In addition to student accommodation, the Clarendon transformation is expected to include new retail buildings and offices, with a new public square and pedestrian/cycle access through to Frewin Court.

The scheme will also feature the creation of a new public open space, including a water feature, drinking fountain and seating.

Adam Smith from Lothbury Investment Management, a real estate investment manager which oversees the Clarendon, told councillors at the time: “Changes in the last decade have accelerated and this has been felt at the Clarendon.

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“The site will be opened up, creating new public spaces.

“This scheme is almost four years in the making."

The centre dates back to the 1980s.

The original building, which had existed from the 19th century, was first knocked down in 1954.

Lothbury's multimillion pound redesign was first announced in 2020.

After the coronavirus pandemic had such a negative effect on footfall, the shopping centre owners indicated they wanted to diversify and no longer use it exclusively for retail.

A consultation by Lothbury Investment Management included plans to create new public spaces in the heart of the city at both ground and roof level, and opening a new link into the historic Frewin Court which has been left largely unused in recent years.

American clothing chain Gap was one of the big names to leave the centre, after the brand closed all 81 stores in the UK in July last year.

Music chain HMV soon after occupied the space, and has been a success story since its return to Cornmarket.

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The chain's branch closed in 2014, then made a comeback last year after HMV was bought out.

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF