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London is London
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I just noticed how ugly Oxford St. is, the buildings are tacky and the shops look awful, even the main shopping areas of Croydon are better. Being the main shopping district in London it needs a major revamp its a disaster compared to what they have in other mega cities.

they should cover all those ugly buildings with electric billboards or something and the chains need to make bigger and better stores like Primark have done, Next has about 3 different locations, riverisland also has a few, they need to merge them to make bigger stores. Right now Oxford St. is a mess.
 

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Futurist
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I just noticed how ugly Oxford St. is, the buildings are tacky and the shops look awful, even the main shopping areas of Croydon are better. Being the main shopping district in London it needs a major revamp its a disaster compared to what they have in other mega cities.

they should cover all those ugly buildings with electric billboards or something and the chains need to make bigger and better stores like Primark have done, Next has about 3 different locations, riverisland also has a few, they need to merge them to make bigger stores. Right now Oxford St. is a mess.
As somebody who works nearby, I agree completely. They should start by pedestrianising the whole street. Then fix all the potholes, drains etc. which often produce enormous puddles/ponds when it rains. The eastern end is particularly ugly and rundown, with some really tacky shops. It's frankly an embarrassment.
 

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A They should start by pedestrianising the whole street. Then fix all the potholes, drains etc. which often produce enormous puddles/ponds when it rains. The eastern end is particularly ugly and rundown, with some really tacky shops. It's frankly an embarrassment.
whilst i agree about the eastern end comment and the potholes i wholeheartedly disagree with pedestrianisation. i think a limit on bus numbers (how many empty buses can you count stacked up?) and across london a move away from HGVs at all times to limited delivery times and smaller vans at all other times. pedestrianisation to me evokes images of the worst of those horrible 60s shopping precincts a la aldershot, staines and countless others. a better traffic plan is what is needed, lights that are sequenced to actually allow movement of traffic and less money subsidising under utilised bus routes

and breathe...
 

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pedestrianisation to me evokes images of the worst of those horrible 60s shopping precincts a la aldershot, staines and countless others.
Barcelona's Las Ramblas should be the template.



Or Santa Monica's Third Street promenade although it's a tad American but the principle is the same.



The distinct problem with Oxford Street is the complete lack of vision exhibited by Westminster Council and the current Mayor. Diagonal crossings are the basic beginnings which should be a small fry part of the overall dynamic vision. But there is none. Well, there was, but nowadays people with the money are in control so I suspect the higher members of this country's leadership want to see trade move to Westfield and let Oxford Street die a death.
 

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I actually agree with that (the las Ramblas bit). The problem is that Oxford street is narrow and lacks the attractive architecture of Las Ramblas. But encouraging restaurants to replace retailers and doing something about the wall of buses is definitely the way to go.

I dont know why anyone goes shopping on Oxford Street these days anyway. There are far better place in London for retail with a more pleasant environment and a better selection of shops. What really is the problem with letting Oxford Street die as a retail destination? Its an embarrassment.
 

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I actually agree with that. The problem is that Oxford street is narrow and lacks the attractive architecture of Las Ramblas.
In fact there is attractive and interesting architecture along Oxford Street. A lot of it is being replaced and the variation and diversity along its route can easily be celebrated and exploited by scrubbing it up and renovating into something that is a positive to the urban realm.









Even this brute could be renovated into quite an interesting facade with some sort of pedestrian access onto the podium level overlooking the street.



A lot of the time nobody notices the architecture above the stores because they're too busy trying to dodge the crowds hemmed in to the lacking pedestrian space.
 

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I just measured off the screen in google maps - Las Ramblas is only about 10% wider than Oxford Street (West of ~Wardour Street anyway). Anyone got some actual dimensions?
 

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Picture these without the sunlight, add some grey skies and rain and you have the UK pedestrianised shopping precinct experience. third street is fine but its just chain stores with a few cinemas, nothing very original or luxurious there. i think regent street should be the more realistic template
 

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Every time Regent's Street or Oxford Street has been shut to traffic it's been a revelation. People taking over, wandering across, taking notice of the street, feeling like they can actually stop and admire the place they are in. Not rushing around dodging people and traffic, stepping out into the road, etc.

With good quality characterful urban design with destination locales along its route you can easily create something different without it resulting in that windswept 'plaza' or boulevard feel that many town centres have turned into.
 

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I wish we could do pedestrianisation well but we dont seem to have ever managed it. Also we need to appreciate London is a vibrant hub of commerce and we need access for transport. its a difficult balance to strike I appreciate. i think pedestrianisation will only work if we can offer alternatives for road traffic.

finally sort out the utilities incessant need to have open works everywhere (often opened and untouched for weeks), 'smart' traffic control, redistribution centres outside zones 1 & 2 for freight then transit into the centre via light good vehicles. if we make better use of exisiting roads then maybe we can afford to pedestrianise parts of the centre.
 

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While thinking about expanding this in general and looking at all those spaces created by crossrail, I think some new squares could make a big difference.

Hannover Square could be expanded North so it breaks up Oxford Street. At the Eastern end a new Square south of the Post Office site could unlock that site for a new street network.

The worst crush is the tourist nexus from Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square and then to Covent Garden. A few new squares could make a big difference.

First knock down the Trocodero centre and leave a much smaller building site for one large building. This would leave space for squares fronting Coventry Street and then up Shaftesbury. The worst part about about Leicester Square is the narrow tube entrances and the amount of people squeezing in the narrow streets. There are couple small blocks of buildings here if demolished would provide space for two small squares and allow a new ticket hall to be built with multiple escalators to street.

I've added a google map to show some of my ideas.

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?hl...d=213189874476833128752.000499ba629df2168a3de
 

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. Also we need to appreciate London is a vibrant hub of commerce and we need access for transport. its a difficult balance to strike I appreciate. .
To me this is the nub of what is wrong with decision making in London, the excessive patronage to commerce- there needs to be rebalance towards making street more enjoyable places for people to be part of the environment rather than charging around everywhere along narrow slithers of pavement - ironically I believe commerce albiet of a different kind would flourish from an enviromrnt where people want to roam within and experience. All it would take is a bit of imagination and a wider look at how central london functions and connects from the persepective of the pedestrian.

Rational Plan for Mayor!
 

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From a couple of years ago...

Influential with a brave vision for Oxford Street

-- Link to London Evening Standard article --


Dame Judith Mayhew-Jonas refuses to be photographed down the tawdry eastern end of Oxford Street. “I am definitely not standing in front of one of those awful tattoo shops or a sex shop,” she says indignantly. “It's just not me.” Dressed in an elegant brocaded dress-suit from Selfridges, Dame Judith's repulsion for the seedier side of the street is evident. “These shops are bad enough,” she says, stopping instead outside some souvenir merchants closer to Oxford Circus. “These narrow unpleasant shops are replicated all the way down the far eastern end of the street and are exactly the sort we don't want here.”

Dame Judith, 59, the newly appointed chairman of the New West End Company (NWEC), with a remit to revamp the Oxford Street area, is one of London's most powerful figures. She is listed in the Evening Standard's 1,000 Influentials magazine, launched in the paper tomorrow. Her record is impressive. She was the first woman to lead the City of London, the first woman to chair the Royal Opera House, and the first woman Provost of King's College Cambridge. She is also the only non-American on the main board of Merrill Lynch in New York (though this could change with the recent takeover, she admits) and chairs the Independent Schools' Council. She will be working a day a week at the NWEC for a salary of £30,000.

It's a backbreaking workload but she is confident she can fit all this in. “I only sleep four hours a night and my legal training means that I read fast and can be strategic about my briefs. It helps that I've worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors and that I know how to bring them together to achieve things.”

In her role with NWEC she has been handed £34 million of ratepayers' money to champion Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street and to co-ordinate the private and public sector. The challenge is huge: to spruce up our main shopping thoroughfares at a time when the economic downturn means crucial private investment is far from certain.

But Dame Judith has a clear vision. She intends to transform what she calls “this eyesore” into a cleaner, clearer Oxford Street. “To start, we need to reduce this wall of red metal,” she says, referring to the buses which jam the length of the street. She intends to cut the current 220 an hour by 40 per cent in four years. And she will “turn the street over to pedestrians. In five years' time, you will see a big difference — wider pavements, better lighting, organised signage, fewer buses, and the beginning of a new dawn for the east end of Oxford Street.”

As well as re-arranging the street furniture to declutter the area she will engineer a grander sense of arrival at the Marble Arch end of the street. The question is, how will she achieve it?She cites the turnaround of Times Square and 42nd Street in New York — achieved by the creation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) — as the precedent. “We are effectively the largest BID in Europe and we estimate that £1.5 billion of public and private money will be going into this area,” she says. “The development of Crossrail with a new station being built at Tottenham Court Road means that we have a once-in-a-century opportunity to transform the eastern end of Oxford Street. My vision is for striking new modern architecture set around the new station and for the current properties to be redeveloped into much larger retail units with bigger floor plates that host younger, edgier stores and that connect it to the thriving Soho nightlife that backs onto this end of the street. We want it to be vibrant and have a unique selling point that distinguishes it from the western end.”

Will there be trams on Oxford Street? “No, definitely not, that was very much the plan of the previous mayor,” says Dame Judith. “It's too costly and impractical given that the eastern end of the street is actually very narrow, but we are keen to have a dedicated transit system for the street, perhaps a dedicated bus, although the details will have to be hammered out with Transport for London.”

The street will not be completely pedestrianised, she adds, though she is keen to experiment with completely cutting out buses during the day and on Saturdays, and the traffic lights will be rephased to improve traffic flow. But she has her work cut out. For Dame Judith, a forthright New Zealand-born solicitor living in Victoria, takes up her post at a time when property developers are tightening their belts and with Oxford Street facing stiff new competition in the form of two giant new shopping centres.

This month sees the much-anticipated opening of Westfield, the £1.6 billion mall at Shepherd's Bush which will be the biggest in-town shopping complex in Europe. Situated just three miles to the west of Oxford Street and spanning 43 acres — twice the size of Brent Cross — Westfield will seek to lure West End shoppers to its 265 shops, 40 restaurants, gym, spa and 14-screen cinema. It will be anchored by House of Fraser, Debenhams, Next, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, and will offer a luxury mall dedicated to top designer brands, including Louis Vuitton, Prada, De Beers and Gucci. And in 2009, the Stratford City shopping complex will open in east London, replete with 1.5 million sq ft of retail facilities as part of a massive £3.5 billion scheme that includes 4,500 new homes.

Dame Judith gives them short shrift. “We don't compete with shopping centres,” she says. “Sure, some people in Kensington, Holland Park and Notting Hill will opt to shop locally but tourists and visitors from outside London, which is half the foot-flow to Oxford Street, are going to choose the dynamic West End over a more limited local experience like Westfield every time.” Yet research cited by her own NWEC estimates that “consumer expenditure is forecast to fall 7.5 per cent in the West End” once these shopping centres come on stream. Surely she is being a little dismissive?

“I have been here before,” she says. “When I led the City of London Corporation for six years [to 2003], we faced a similar challenge to the City from Canary Wharf. We made sure the City did not suffer and we'll do the same for the West End. Besides, Westfield is relatively tiny — its entire footprint is the same as John Lewis, Selfridges and House of Fraser combined. So it's on a different scale, and I think it will do more damage to regional shopping centres like Brent Cross than the West End.”

Central to Judith's strategy is harnessing the major stakeholders to revitalise the run-down eastern end of Oxford Street where rentals are 50 per cent lower than the rest of the street. “We have reached a tipping point where everyone — from the Mayor's office to Westminster city council to the key property owners and retailers — is clearly focused on the opportunity to do something. We all want the same thing— an economically viable area — and on 15 October, all the stakeholders will be sitting down to a dinner I am co-hosting at Westminster City Hall and I will be telling them, Right, this is what you've said you want to do, enough talk, now is the time to implement it.'”

But will they go for it? Mark Fenwick, chairman of Fenwick Ltd with a family fortune of £386 million and a board member of the NWEC, thinks it will be a hard sell. He tells the Evening Standard: “In the current climate, I am afraid to say that the redevelopment of the eastern end of Oxford Street is unlikely to go ahead. I'm surmising that it will be postponed and won't be going forward because of the current uncertain state of the economy and the deep-seated problems in the property business,” he says.

Rosemarie MacQueen, director of planning and development at Westminster City Council, goes further. “Right now,” she says, “the eastern side of Oxford Street looks like the back end of some two-bit suburban market town. But the property developers are telling us in no uncertain terms that they won't do any new developments until Crossrail has been sorted out, and so it is unlikely we'll see any movement before 2017. Obviously we're not happy, and we'll be trying, with Dame Judith, to get them to shift, but if the big landowners — like Land Securities, Derwent London and Great Portland — refuse to budge, we'll have to look at more superficial ways of giving the street a facelift ahead of the Olympics.”

Doesn't this leave Dame Judith — whose current mandate is for five years only — with a rather diminished brief? “Obviously we are living in extraordinary times but as long as Crossrail goes ahead with its £500 million Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street Tube station upgrades, I believe that we have the platform to begin to drive this through. The landlords down there are hugely wealthy property companies and I am confident we can convince them to take a long view and start the planning application process now. It will happen, it just may take longer given the current environment. Besides, we have an important co-ordinating role to play with the other £1 billion being invested in the area. At Park House, a Land Securities site across from Selfridges, they are spending £352 million to demolish it and convert it into a mixed-use scheme with retail on the ground, office space above and residential at the top. It's the biggest redevelopment on Oxford Street for 60 years: our job is to look at opportunities in the space around it and bring the whole thing together holistically.”

According to Fenwick, “if anyone can mobilise the energy to transform the West End, Judith can”. Dame Judith grew up in Dunedin, a university town in New Zealand, the daughter of two historians. Her father died from cancer when she was five and her mother, a headmistress, became her role model as a single-parent career woman. She qualified as a solicitor and came to London in her early twenties where she lectured in law at King's College London before switching to a career in public service and politics.

Her first marriage at 26 failed after 10 years, and recently, in 2003, she married again, this time to Christopher Jonas, the wealthy property consultant. Does she regret having no children? “In some ways I do,” she says, “but then I probably would not have had such an interesting life.” At City of London, she is credited with hastening the transformation of the Corporation from an irrelevant gentleman's club into a dynamic body at the forefront of promoting the British financial services industry.

She represented the Square Mile directly in Brussels and fought to ensure that the formation of the EU single market did not damage London's position as the world's premier financial centre. (She was awarded a peerage in 2002 for “services to the City of London”.) And at the Royal Opera House, she breathed new life into a moribund institution by shrewdly broadening its appeal, leaving it this year in far ruder health than when she'd arrived in 2003. But getting developers to commit to the West End in the current economic climate could be her toughest hurdle yet.

“Defeat is not an option,” she insists, staring with displeasure at the endless phalanx of buses blocking her view as she strides down Oxford Street. “I relish a challenge,” she says, smiling thinly. “I can't wait to get started and prove the doubters wrong.”
~~

Three ways to bring a new dawn to Oxford St

-- Link to London Evening Standard article --


Plans to transform the narrow, squalid pavements at the east end of Oxford Street into broad, clean boulevards were published last week. If only. There is nothing wrong with the drawings produced by architect Sir Terry Farrell for Mayor Boris. Quite the reverse: the prospect of the turning the urban jungle around Centrepoint into an ordered garden will appeal to all.

“In five years' time, you will see a big difference — wider pavements, better lighting, organised signage, fewer buses, and the beginning of a new dawn for the east end of Oxford Street.” That is what Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas told the Evening Standard last week. Dame Judith is chair of the New West End Company, a business improvement district partnership that uses money skimmed from the rates to do what its status suggests.

Mayhew Jonas was, strictly speaking, talking about improvements planned by the New West End Company, rather than the dreams of Sir Terry. But even her dream will also be difficult to achieve. this is mainly because a huge new station planned for Crossrail has blighted this stretch of Oxford Street for 25 years. That won't be ready until well after 2013. But Dame Judith is not a woman to be deterred. The New Zealand lawyer, who turns 60 tomorrow, is a former head of policy at the City of London, former Provost of King's College Cambridge and former chair of the Royal Opera House. So probably a good woman to fix three things that have been left unfixed by male egos.

First on the list is to bring the boys together who actually own the buildings around Tottenham Court Road tube station. Land Securities and Derwent London own many of the crumbling properties. Another, called Targetfollow, owns Centrepoint. “I've seen the Farrell plans,” said one of the above. “They say nothing about what happens above the pavement. Why don't they just get us around the table and we can sort something out in months rather than years.” Dame Judith? The next thing on the list is getting rid of what Dame Judith calls the “wall of red metal” along Oxford Street: the 220 buses per hour that clog the entire street.

Here she seems to have already softened Peter Hendy, Boris Johnson's man who runs Transport for London. She says Hendy has agreed to reduce the number of buses passing up and down Oxford Street by 40% over the next four years. That will make Oxford Street a much sweeter spot for pedestrians.

But the third item on Dame Judith's little list will make the west end of the street occasionally sweeter still: stopping the traffic completely at the weekends. On Saturday, 6 December this year the annual ritual of transforming Oxford Street into a pedestrian precinct is due to be repeated. Why not experiment further, asks Dame Judith. After all, The VIP (Very Important Pedestrian) day works a treat. So why not shut the street on the Sunday as well? In fact why not shut it every weekend?

Why not indeed? Perhaps this could start on 14 and 15 March 2009: for that is the 100th anniversary of the opening of Selfridges, the store that smartened up the west end of Oxford Street. Oh, one more thing Dame Judith: could you possibly unearth a latter-day Gordon Selfridge to transform the wrong end of the street?
 

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The thing about Oxford Street is that the discerning Londoner doesn't really use it.
We have beautiful shopping areas at Bond/Mount Streets, Jermyn Street, Convent Garden/Seven Dials, and King's Road/Sloane Street/Knightsbridge.
Oxford Street is stuffed with massive tacky shops and department stores that aren't aimed with strolling pedestrians.

Although I think the idea of opening it up with squares/crossrail is very good.
And if that was combined with the pedestrianisation of Regent Street, and the smartening up of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square (as mentioned by Rational Plan), we'd have a really stunning, large, and and high quality shopping district.
 

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Well I suppose she had a recession to deal with but what exactly has been done? nothing.
That vision was great, just implement it Westminster!! what is the problem exactly?
Major missed opportunity to wow in the Olympics.
 

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Épater la Bourgeoisie
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Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon is pretty awesome too, although this template is not exactly suitable for Oxford Street.....Park Lane on the other hand.....Failing that a squiggly, futuristic, 'broken' skywalk snaking its way through and above Oxford Street and the West End would be fantastic. Sounds wacky, but then again the idea of running a railway underground must have been seen so too! London has always been at the centre of innovation. Anyways, Avenida da Liberdade -





 

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it makes all too much sense, doesn't Westminster get it? Oxford street is a pit because its public realm is appalling in turn reducing investment and attracting a better range of retail. Looking at what Europe does it makes me so angry that our major shopping street is so poorly invested in. The architecture is as good as any major city on the continent and will only improve if and when they actually do something about it.
 
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