Westgate Oxford is open for business. The handover of the Landsec and Crown Estate joint venture took place at the project yesterday, with shoppers flooding into the retail centre on the opening day as planned.
Building the three-storey retail complex has been a huge undertaking. Westgate now features a 1,000 space underground car park and a residential block with 59 new apartments, alongside a new 140,000 sq ft John Lewis anchor store, shops, restaurants, a unique food court, and a five-screen cinema.
Refurbishing the site was not just about providing consumers with a greatly enhanced shopping experience, as the environmental impact of the works was considered and planned from day one, with a focus on rejuvenating a whole part of Oxford's city centre.
The refurbishment captured the public imagination in a number of other ways outside of shopping. Significant challenges of the build included archaeological excavations, during which a number of artefacts (some thought to be 700 years old) were discovered. In addition, the complex logistics of working in and around a busy city centre required bus routes to be diverted to take traffic around the new structure during the build.
Part of the success of the project has been the continuity within the team who worked closely and collaboratively to hit key deadlines, a number of whom had considerable experience on previous Laing O’Rourke retail jobs. In addition to the involvement of Expanded, CHt, Expanded Piling, Select plant and Vetter (who provided all of the stone work in the arcades), Laing O'Rourke’s Explore Manufacturing arm delivered a huge number of offsite components for the new building’s structure and facades.
On opening day Project Leader Chris Rafferty said: “We’ve demonstrated our ability yet again in the Retail sector, whether this has been in meeting the client’s brief, our own sustainability targets or local engagement with community groups. Ultimately it all comes down to local residents and shoppers to give their seal of approval, so we hope they enjoy the new Westgate centre in the months and years to come. It’s great to bring all of our expertise together in a really collaborative way on projects such as these.”