A look at West Oxford’s recently established mixed-use destination
When it comes to the future of towns and cities, the functional prospect of mixed-use developments has been hailed as the solution for many areas looking to improve their offering. The balance of being able to work-live-play within a five-to-fifteen-minute radius is appealing for several reasons, convenience, efficiency, accessibility, and sustainability chief among them. All four have proven central to the development of West Way Square in the Botley area of West Oxford which opened its first phase in 2020 and has now begun the development of phase two.
The scheme sits on the on the edge of Oxford city, a mile West of the city’s railway station. In 2014, Doric partnered with developers Mace Group in a joint venture (The Botley Development Company- BDC), together bringing development, investment, construction, and project management expertise to breathe new life into West Way.
The first phase of the scheme, which comprises around 80% of the total development, was completed and became fully operational in 2020. BDC reinvigorated the scheme, delivering high-quality homes, a hotel, student accommodation, public facilities including a new community building (including a new library), 52,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space, and lots of attractive outside space, including a central public piazza.
With Phase Two now underway, the developers are confident that upon completion West Way Square will complement Botley’s charm as a bustling centre, offering something for the whole community and the many people who visit the district.
Community has been a continual consideration for BDC from the outset. “Throughout there was community liaison,” tells Nick Chaplin, senior development manager at Mace. “Everyone involved in bringing the scheme to life was engaged with the local communities, listening to their concerns and trying to adapt them as much as possible into the scheme’s development.”
The first phase of West Way Square has been open for over a year, and Chaplin says things are going well, dubbing the scheme ‘lively’. The important thing for BDC, he says, was re-providing the uses for the local area and providing what should be a landmark destination for the residents in the area. “I think it’s already become just that,” he says. “We’ve got a really nice variety of shops and retail opportunity there; the site has really opened up and it’s great to see the activity that is now there.”
A green agenda
As developers, Chaplin says that sustainability is a central focus of Mace’s mission statement and this fed through to BDC’s vision for the site– but what does being a sustainable developer actually mean? “It’s multi-faceted,” he explains. “You can look at it in the construction process, the development process and even the after-completion operation process: there are a lot of terms that sustainability can apply to, and it’s important not just to tick boxes, but to put in impactful and meaningful sustainable measures.”
With regards to its construction, Phase 2 of West Way Square will be a Net Zero Carbon development. That means, wherever possible BDC have tried to mitigate the construction and development impact by way of sustainable construction measures and sustainable alternatives. Some carbon is, however, unavoidable, which is why BDC will invest in Gold Standard carbon offset schemes.
“It is impossible to completely avoid carbon because you can get carbon simply from people coming to site,” says Chaplin. “We mitigate as much as possible, but there will always be a tiny bit, so we use Golden Standard carbon offset schemes which means investing in sustainable projects, around the world such as well drilling to tree planting.”
He says that as a developer, Mace are keen to ensure that the sustainability of a scheme goes beyond the construction phase: “We procure green energy generated from green sources, and we try to leave a positive legacy from the projects we involve ourselves in. Sustainability is genuinely is part of the Mace mission statement and is genuinely important in all our projects.”
Access all areas
Another built-in benefit of a mixed-use development such as West Way Square is its accessibility. Not everyone has access to a car, and many people find it difficult to travel long distances, so having everything on their doorstep has been a central focus for BDC in selecting the retail offering to on-site. “There are a number of different supermarkets on the site itself, alongside pharmacies and estate agents – you’ve got all the crucial uses that a community needs in order to operate and have accessible accessibility “.
Chaplin notes the multi-generational offering for different demographics on site. At weekends there is often a farmers market, encouraging local traders and artisan food producers to set up a market stall and sell to local residents. “Altogether it brings a really nice community feel, and I think that’s only possible by the way of bringing all those different uses onto the site. It’s that one-stop shop,” he says
The second wave of retail lettings has begun via Jeremy High of JPH Real Estate. High tell us the letting process targeted successful local companies rather than the national multiples, again with the idea of creating a genuinely local community. This proved successful with 6 units trading or fitting out and only 2 currently available. New openings will include a Mediterranean brasserie and wine bar, a Southern Indian restaurant, an ice cream parlour and a local independent coffee roaster.
Phase two – a 150 unit residential block with retail units at ground level – completes the scheme. BDC are in the process of demolishing the buildings that were in situ, and the retail tenants who occupied these units have since moved into the brand new units delivered by the development over a year ago. Chaplin is hopeful that they can commence construction as soon as possible after the site is cleared.
BDC are currently working through finalising the construction process with the aim of starting as soon as possible. A completion date for the second phase is centred around a two-year building programme due to complete summer of 2023.
“It was a long journey,” Chaplin adds. “We’re really proud of what we can contribute in terms of a lasting legacy for the area, and we’re excited in the next two years that we’ll be able to complete that with the final phase of the development.”
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.