Join Alice on her journey into the wonders of Westgate and meet the colourful characters she encounters along the way...
Alice spotted a magpie in the distance and hastily approached him, asking if he knew the way to Westgate. He pointed her in the direction of a cobblestone path…
Soon enough, Alice came upon construction workers. She stared up at them and asked if they knew the way to Westgate. They told her their masterpiece was a short walk away…
As Alice continued on her journey she stumbled upon a mole who spoke of all the incredible things found beneath Westgate. The mole told Alice to head underground to discover more…
Alice was greeted by four of Westgate’s founding partners. They spoke of the effort it took to bring it to life and insisted she stay for tea. She took one sip and, oh, she began to shrink…
Startled, a teeny-tiny Alice skipped through a teeny-tiny doorway and found herself amidst a group of architects. They were examining their floorplans and recommended that Alice head outside to the garden…
Alice found herself standing in a garden being tended by a mouse who pointed at an expanse in the distance. Alice gazed upon Westgate and hurried along to explore it at last…
Alice was awestruck by the beauty of the place. A familiar face appeared; the magpie had returned! He welcomed Alice, giving her a necklace as a reminder of the magical day.
Park & Ride to Westgate
Oxford has long been the home of great ideas – the city’s pioneering Park & Ride scheme is just one of them.
Oxford was the first UK city to implement Park & Ride. Since its launch in the 1970s, it’s become one of the most popular ways to get into the city – and that’s something we continue to encourage.
More than 60% of Westgate customers use the service, so right from the start we wanted to make using it a great experience.
Helping to reduce traffic in Oxford’s already congested city centre was always a goal. Integrating the city’s Park & Ride scheme into the design of the centre from the start was vital.
We’ve built new bus stops around Westgate to make sure that all customers can easily access the site from whichever car park they use.
Gone are the days of having to guess how long it will be until your bus arrives. We’ve installed digital signs around Westgate to let shoppers know exactly how long it will be before their bus leaves, and we’ve also improved signage on roads around the car parks to make them even easier to find.
We’ve also made paying for the Park & Ride as easy as possible. Modern ticket machines allow customers to purchase a single ticket that covers parking and the return bus trip, and they’re fully compatible with contactless payment technology – no more rummaging for coins.
Oxford is famous for its cyclists and it would have been wrong not to focus on improving the experience for them too. We’ve installed 1,000 cycle parking spaces – the same number as car parking spaces – and we’re also creating a cycling hub to meet every cyclist’s needs.
Whatever way our customers choose to come to Westgate, we’ve strived to make it as stress-free as possible for them, and for the local community.
How do you build a modern, world-class shopping centre in the heart of a medieval city?
By working with a construction partner who offers novel solutions to streamline the development. Laing O’Rourke were that partner. Together we worked to make sure the build was as sustainable and considerate as possible and that the end product was second to none.
Every build has its challenges, and Westgate was no exception. What was the best technique for overcoming the challenges? Off-site construction.
Large swathes of the centre – including brick walls and glazed areas – were made in factories and then installed when they were ready. It meant that no scaffolding was used during the construction and that whatever the weather was doing, progress could still be made.
Off-site construction, on this scale, had not been done before in the UK. Westgate proved that it’s a fantastic way to build – watch out for it across the whole industry.
Our construction partner
Chris RaffertyLaing O'Rourke
It’s great to work on a project that makes you excited to be in construction. Westgate had it all from huge excavations to multiple-tower cranes and cutting-edge construction techniques. At its peak, I don’t think there was a more exciting project in the UK.”
Project Director, Laing O'Rourke Construction
A development on this scale in this sort of location will always cause some disturbance to local residents and businesses, but we wanted to make sure that any chaos was kept to a minimum.
Our construction partners were aware of the impact that they could have and worked as considerately as they could. Deliveries to site were consolidated to help with traffic flow; careful planning meant the Oxford City Council library – which is on the Westgate site – could stay open throughout; and no scaffolding meant that locals could see the progress being made on site.
We wanted to make the development the best possible experience from the start. The feedback from local residents – that noise, vibration and litter were not a problem – suggests that our construction partner’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Every development throws up surprises, but it’s rare that they’re as exciting as those we found beneath Westgate.
From the start, we knew we were building on a historic site. What we didn’t know was that we were going to uncover so much history and, in the process, create the largest archaeological dig in Oxford’s history.
The team of 50 archaeologists made a fantastic discovery under the former Westgate car park: the remains of a medieval friary.
Our archaeologist partner
"The Westgate project resulted in the biggest exposure of medieval buildings yet seen in Oxford and during the lengthy excavation I had the privilege of visiting the site on a regular basis to witness what was being revealed.
“Over the course of the dig the lost landscape of Oxford’s Franciscan friary was uncovered and produced a number of exciting surprises. These included the well-preserved remains of the friary bake house, a large number of medieval building timbers that had been re-used in the foundations and, towards the end of the dig, the remains of part of a tiled pavement from the main cloister. The tiles are now on display within the re-opened shopping centre.
The project included significant outreach work and resulted in the site receiving the British Archaeological Association Best Archaeological Project Award in 2016. It required immense effort and teamwork by a wide range of specialists and volunteers and it was a both challenge and a pleasure to be involved”
Archaeologist, Oxford City Council
We discover something new in every project we undertake, but it will take a lot to beat these amazing discoveries.
Westgate Oxford Alliance
Our Westgate journey began back in 2011, when The Crown Estate approached Landsec – then Land Securities – to create a joint venture and develop the Westgate site.
There had been previous attempts to update the original shopping centre but those hadn’t come to anything. It was an exciting opportunity for us. We’d worked with The Crown Estate before and were excited to work with them again.
Four years after the original joint venture was created, planning permission for the new site was granted. The JV worked closely with Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to make sure the resulting development met the needs of the local area and our customers.
Public consultation was vital. We wanted to develop something that benefitted as many people as possible. In April 2014 we held a five-day exhibition to show the plans for the development. More than 1,100 people saw the plans and provided us with more than 160 feedback forms expressing their views and comments on the designs. The results were encouraging: more than two thirds thought the designs sat well within Oxford’s historic cityscape. In November that year, Oxford City Council granted permission.
Westgate Oxford Alliance partners
Councillor Bob Price
Councillor Ian Hudspeth
Oxford City Council:
"The redevelopment of Westgate has been the central feature of the city’s plans for regenerating our West End. The size of the site meant that it was vital to ensure that it blended well with the rest of the central area and linked seamlessly with the surrounding sites – the Castle area, Oxpens and St Ebbe’s.
“Landsec took this fully on board from the outset, and worked closely with our planners and the architects to create a new quarter for Oxford, that is permeable, environmentally friendly and well designed.
“At each stage of the development process, we have enjoyed a constructive dialogue with Landsec, based on our common aspirations for the new Westgate. We are very pleased with the result.”
Leader Oxford City Council
Oxfordshire County Council:
“Our highways and transport staff worked closely with the team who delivered Westgate from the very start. Our county library is part of the development and it too has benefited from a welcome fresh new look.
Westgate is a wonderful modern addition to one of England’s most historic cities. The retail offer in the city has improved immeasurably and many people have said how impressed they are at the level of improvement when compared to the old Westgate.”
Leader Oxfordshire County Council
The Crown Estate:
"For such a significant project as Westgate, it was important to choose a partner that shared our commitment to delivering a quality destination, fit for the future and carefully tailored to its setting, in the historic city of Oxford.
In Landsec, we found this shared vision, as well as aligned values and a long-term outlook. In working together, first to develop Princesshay in Exeter and now at Westgate, we’ve created two brilliant places, combining the best of retail and leisure and also cemented our valuable partnership.”
Director of Regional Retail at The Crown Estate
"In Westgate, we have embraced the challenge of creating a best in class, sustainable development that meets the changing demands of modern customers while being sympathetic to the setting of an historic city.
Working closely with our partners has been the key to delivering an outstanding experience for visitors and retailers alike.”
Head of Retail Development, Landsec
Westgate is a prime example of the importance of partnerships. We weren’t the first developers to try to redevelop the Westgate site, but we were the first ones to deliver.
By working together and building a relationship with the local community, the Westgate Oxford Alliance has been able to develop a world-class shopping centre in one of the most historic cities in the world.
Oxford has a rich architectural history and we wanted to honour that with our development.
We worked with a team of architects and masterplanners who delivered the fantastic scheme that will stand for years to come.
Hear from each of them what it was like to work on such a project and what have been their highlights.
David HendersonGlenn Howells Architects
Gareth HunterPanter Hudspith
Simon FraserAllies and Morrison
Jeremy DixonDixon Jones
"Extending the retail core of Oxford’s historic city centre was always going to be a challenging task. With the scale of such a project came the responsibility of achieving a commercially and operationally successful shopping centre, while seamlessly integrating a large new building into the city fabric and historic skyline.
“The brief was to provide a contemporary shopping and leisure destination to attract customers back to the city centre. Due to its scale, such a development in the city centre required a uniquely different type of shopping centre with a variety and richness of architecture which would be best achieved through a collaborative approach involving a number of architects.
"The new Westgate arranges a series of individual urban blocks, tied together by public spaces and urban fabric that operate as a single entity.
The public spaces integrate with the surrounding city streets and lanes to form a cross weave of arcades and lanes, linking the blocks together while integrating with the different areas of the city.”
Glenn Howells Architects:
"It was a real pleasure to be working within Oxford and discovering more about the city.
Architects from all of the blocks developed their proposals in parallel and shared progress at regular reviews, each benefiting from the insight and supportive critique of our peers. The completed project is much the better for it.”
Glenn Howells Architects
"Our challenge was to design a large building knitted into BDP's masterplan with a highly perforated masonry façade serving the needs of flexible retail units, whilst contributing a humane scale and detail to the wider townscape.
“Panter Hudspith’s desire to create a place of tangible character was ever present in our endeavours to design a building that is functional, contextual and memorable.
A project of the scale and complexity of Westgate, in the heart of this renowned historic city, warranted a level of variety and richness that can only be achieved with diverse architects working in constant close collaboration.”
Allies and Morrison:
The research and design process has been a fascinating and rewarding collaboration between the city, client and consultant design teams.
Of particular note, were the frequent and open design discussions between the five principal architectural practices, with each seeking modern architectural solutions that appropriately reference the character and heritage of Oxford buildings, but which would also comfortably co-exist with each other and their existing context.”
Allies and Morrison
"We enjoyed working with the group of architects chosen by Peter Coleman of BDP. We all got on together well and justified Peter’s idea for diversifying the authorship and style of such a large complex project.
Our part of the project included providing a satisfactory relationship between the historic centre of Oxford and a major new retail complex. The curved wall and tower to Bonn Square are intended to be both a contextual move in relation to Queen Street and New Road, and at the same time, the announcement of a new ‘front door’ leading to a new arcade and retail complex beyond.”
"Working on Westgate has been a great experience and one I will remember for many years to come. The quality and personalities within the team assembled by Landsec, combined with the privilege to help so fundamentally shape the future of a place in which I live and work, created a rare and valuable opportunity.
“In a city synonymous with excellence in academia, it was both challenging and reassuring to see this same level of aspiration and rigour in the approach the client and consultants brought to Westgate.
I have two personal highlights - firstly, being able to visit Westgate with my daughters and talk to them about what I ‘do all day’ – a strange experience given they weren’t born when we were developing the concept, and secondly, as a cyclist in Oxford, it is fantastic to know we’ve contributed another 1,000 spaces to the city landscape!”
Making Westgate sustainable
Sustainability is so much more than benchmarks and reporting – it’s about people.
Yes, it’s about reducing reliance on carbon and meeting targets but really it comes down to making places that will have a long-lasting, positive impact for generations to come.
We wanted to create one of the most sustainable shopping centres ever built and we’ve definitely achieved that. At every stage we’ve strived to make sure that we are using the most responsible materials and that they are being installed in the most responsible way.
When Westgate launched in October 2017, we released our total impact report, ‘Inspiring Change’, to show the social and economic value that Westgate has created.
Delivering Westgate has created £738m of gross economic value in the economy, contributed £4.3m to improving local infrastructure and will create 3,500 full-time-equivalent retail jobs, through a community employment programme targeted at those furthest from the jobs market in Oxfordshire.
Furthermore, Westgate is one of the lowest carbon retail destinations the UK has ever seen. We've cut emissions by using centralised air source heating to deliver heating and cooling to shops and restaurants. This avoids the use of natural gas, lowers costs for our retail partners and reduces our reliance on fossil fuels.
Making Westgate sustainable
"At Westgate we used our knowledge of sustainable design and our community employment experience to deliver great outcomes for our customers. This ranged from creating low carbon, low cost heating for our brand partners, to delivering a huge range of educational experiences and opportunities for young people.
Our learning from Westgate is already informing our sustainable design and community employment strategy for developments, where we continue to challenge our partners to cut carbon in the supply chain, create opportunities for community interest companies and drive greater transparency on fair payment.”
Sustainability Special Projects, Landsec
Westgate's wonderful retail partners
A first-rate retail offering had been missing from Oxford for a long time.
So, it’s no wonder our retail partners were excited to set up shop at Westgate. It was a great opportunity for them and a great opportunity for our customers.
We’ve welcomed a number of fantastic brands including Uniqlo, Primark, Ted Baker, Victoria’s Secret Pink, MAC and Tommy Hilfiger. And, for the first time in Oxford’s history, there’s now a John Lewis.
John Lewis Oxford is a 140,000 sq ft flagship store and has been one of the most hotly anticipated openings.
John Lewis, our retail partner
Julie BlakeBranch Manger, John Lewis Oxford
"It has been an exciting few weeks since we opened John Lewis Oxford as the anchor tenant in the stunning Westgate Centre.
"We are delighted that our 320 Partners have begun a new story in our 49th shop in the UK and welcomed many customers to experience and discover what we have to offer.
“This is a special shop as it has its carefully created design connecting us to the city of Oxford with our stunning Alice in Wonderland roses in our dwell space and our magical miniature doors, that many children have enjoyed finding as part of our treasure hunt.
“We are delighted to be in partnership with Westgate and all of its team and look forward to deepening our relationships with all of the businesses that make up a fantastic mix of retail, leisure and entertainment.
It will be great to work together to achieve our joint aspirations to be first in mind for our customers to come to John Lewis and Westgate, and spend their day receiving excellent service and a fabulous experience.”
Branch Manager, John Lewis Oxford
It’s not just new shops that Westgate has brought to the city – we’ve created new restaurants, a new luxury cinema and new public spaces as well.
The five-screen Curzon cinema is a welcome addition to Oxford’s leisure scene as is the Junkyard Golf Club.
There are 12 new restaurants and bars on the beautiful roof terrace that enjoys views over Westgate and the famous spires. We’ve also taken the experience we’ve learned from Trinity Kitchen in Leeds and created Westgate Social where there are five independent food outlets for everyone to enjoy. It’s a great way to champion small businesses and to enjoy some of the best street food around.
When will you visit?