Westminster Labour Councillors have urged the owners of the former Debenham’s building at 334 Oxford Street to include a range of cultural uses in the proposed refurbishment and extension of the building.
In their comments to the owners of the building, Labour have welcomed the proposed re-use of the existing building and the retention of a small amount of retail floorspace in the basement, ground and first floors on the Oxford Street frontage. They would like to know more about the flexible uses proposed for the rest of the existing building and for the three additional floors proposed on the top of the existing building.
Westminster Labour Group has put forward the idea of creating a ‘cultural hub’ in Oxford Street to attract new visitors to the street and to act as a ‘magnet’ to draw visitors who would not normally visit Oxford Street for shopping. https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk/ward-news/2021/02/22/the-oxford-street-art-house-westminster-labours-plan-for-the-empty-debenhams-department-store/
Some of the following cultural uses should be considered for the proposed 9 floors of ‘flexible space’
- ‘Maker Space’ and studios which would provide craftspeople and artists affordable workspace to produce all kinds of art, sculpture, pottery, jewellery, glassware and crafts. Working in partnership with London’s art schools and colleges, the space could be allocated to the ‘best and brightest’ of London’s graduates, with expert help available for them to launch themselves in business.
- A Fashion gallery – displaying designs from the UK’s leading fashion and textile designers, including catwalks for use during London Fashion Week
- An ‘Hidden Art’ gallery – exhibitions from some of the UK’s hidden public and private collections that are rarely available for the public to see
- A Photography gallery – regular exhibitions of the work of British photographers
- A Movie gallery – acknowledging the importance of Soho in the British Film industry, this gallery would feature exhibits from the film industry archive and include screening rooms and hospitality areas.
- Performance Space – for new playwrights, poets and actors to showcase their work
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour City Management spokesperson said:
“If the shoppers and the tourists are going to be attracted back to Oxford Street it will need something special, something different and something unique. Oxford Street will need to offer families, day trippers and holiday makers a ‘great day out’ – a real experience, combining shopping with other leisure, cultural and entertainment activities.”
“We suggest that some of the existing and new floorspace currently earmarked as ‘flexible space’ should be classified as D1 (cultural uses) in order to speed up and simplify the planning process when enquiries are received by the building owners and their agents.
“We think the combination of retail, office and cultural uses under one roof could be a successful combination of uses’”
The owners of the former Debenham’s building have unveiled plans to redevelop the building. You can see the proposals here https://334oxfordstreetconsultation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/334-OS-Exhibition-Boards-FINAL-compressed-2.pdf