Makespace Oxford, the lead delivery partner of the initiative, has inspected over 13 vacant retail spaces in the city center and rented four of them at short notice or “in the meantime”. With the units secured, Makespace is now looking for local, targeted businesses and organizations to rent out the space to support Banbury’s local economy.
Each of the units is located in the center of Banbury – two in Castle Quay Shopping Center and the remaining two on High Street and Market Square – and leases will start as early as autumn 2021. As part of the “Now in Oxfordshire” program, the space will be rented below market price with additional concessions available to charities and non-profit organizations.
The program is led by Oxford City Council and is a district-wide partnership between Oxfordshire Local Enterprise and the district councils with funding from the government’s Getting Building Fund.
It was launched in February 2021 and aims to break down space barriers and give small organizations in the early stages a unique opportunity to develop, test and implement their ideas. It also aims to breathe life back into the high numbers of unused spaces in Oxfordshire’s main streets and urban centers and to support post-pandemic economic recovery.
Penny Lawrence, Strategic Director at Makespace Oxford, said: “There are so many priceless empty spaces in our Oxfordshire urban centers and yet so many local organizations and businesses that could benefit from having access to them.
“With ‘Now in Oxfordshire’ we are trying to fill that void by giving local businesses and community organizations access to affordable space to grow.”
In line with their existing Oxford City jobs, Makespace seeks out local, independent businesses and organizations that span many different sectors but are linked by a commitment to positive cultural, social or environmental impact.
By putting people and purpose before profit, the Makespace team hopes to bring to life a new vision for Oxfordshire’s High Streets – one that responds to local needs, creates more resilient local communities and builds a stronger local economy.
Wild Property Consultancy’s local real estate expert, Neil Wild, is a delivery partner for the Oxfordshire Meanwhile program.
He said, “This is a great opportunity for any organization, small business or entrepreneur to move into real estate flexibly without having to sign a long-term lease. The project also provides support during the process so that we can help an organization with its next step. ”
After the places are secured, Makespace is now looking for tenants for the units.
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“We have some fantastic squatters in the line-up, but we’re still looking for more. So we encourage everyone to apply and spread the word in their communities. ”
Cllr Lynn Pratt, Senior Member of the Cherwell District Council for Business, Regeneration and Property, said, “It is wonderful to see the first four Cherwell spots become available in the heart of Banbury. This is such an exciting program, and we know Makespace is also working very hard to secure spots in Bicester and Kidlington later on. I encourage any small business, entrepreneur, or community organization interested in Banbury real estate to apply as soon as possible. ”
The unit at 43 Market Place, a former Oxfam bookshop, is currently on offer, but applications for the three remaining places remain open and will be accepted on an ongoing basis until suitable users are found.
Makespace encourages anyone interested in space to apply, but will prioritize local, purpose-driven organizations and businesses. Which applicants are successful also depends on their space requirements and how this fits with the places that become free through the program.