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Visitors to London soon grow accustomed to the fact that taxi drivers refer to the eastern, Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street as “the dodgy end”. And they have a point. Until Primark opened its second

Oxford Street store within spitting distance of the Tottenham Court Road tube, the area was devoid of large-scale flagship stores. Even more fragmented ownership and

proximity to the old stews of Seven Dials – as opposed to the mansions of Mayfair – completed the prejudicial picture as early as the 18th century. But all that is starting to change.

Primark’s second flagship store bucked the trend that favours Oxford Circus and the West for such behemoths. Other

“What is keeping this street going?

Selfridges.” He may have a point. Selfridges takes £1bn in sales annually and is regarded as a destination in its

brands, such as Office, now have a major presence. Slowly but surely it is being gentrified. But the biggest game-changer is still a few stops down the line. At the far eastern end of Oxford

Street, opposite the new Primark and in the shadow of Centre Point (which is about to be converted to luxury flats by Almacantar) is a hole in the ground. A big hole. About a century ago it was a factory – the birthplace of Branston pickle. After that it was a cinema, then a theatre, and then a legendary music venue – the Astoria. The old building has gone, compulsorily purchased to make way for the titanic Crossrail project. London’s newest piece of transport infrastructure is starting to come

own right. “Oxford Street has been very fortunate to have the active management of Selfridges. Until the landowners really drive it, it will suffer

together below ground. The new station is projected to increase capacity and footfall at this end of the street by 36%. In real money, that’s a further 200,000 people daily. On top of that – literally – is the

redevelopment of the site at ground level. In April, Derwent London won planning permission for its 275,000 sq ft scheme on the Astoria site. As well as 177,000 sq ft of offices it will host 37,000 sq ft of a new scheme called 1 Oxford Street and a West End theatre. Derwent London chief executive

John Burns says: “It will help in the much-needed revitalisation of the eastern end of Oxford Street, which is essential for the long-term growth of the West End.”

from a fragmented ownership and continue to lose out to other areas and streets that have far better control of their images and destinies.


Summer 2013

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