With its central location right next to Oxford’s train station, we saw the building at 21 Park End Street as an opportunity to create an affordable and accessible social enterprise hub in an otherwise expensive and exclusive city centre.
After commissioning research to gain insight on community opinion, experience and need in relation to buildings in the city centre, we proposed a dynamic community hub animated by innovative, purpose-driven organisations and individuals.
A lease for the vacant building was secured from Nuffield College for an initial three year period at a peppercorn rent, and we began the refurbishment and transformation of The Community Works.
Prior to our occupancy, 21 Park End Street had been empty for nearly eight years, resulting in significant dilapidation and health and safety risks. To bring it to usable standards, we completed the following works…
- Full site deep clean and waste removal
- Full electrical re-wire
- Replacement of gas and boiler systems
- Installation of electrical heating system
- Roof repairs
- Glazing repairs and window refurbishment
- Plastering, carpentry, redecoration
- Fit out with a full industrial kitchen and servery area
With community research completed and building works underway, we embarked on the process of finding a combination of resident organisations that would bring this new space to life. Through a formal cafe tender and our 'Meanwhile in Oxfordshire...' application process, we found six local organisations and businesses that would compliment each others' work and the needs of local community.
Today, The Community Works is a place where people can come not only to eat and drink, but to connect, collaborate and create. It is home to Lula's Ethiopian & Eritrean, JF Coffee, The Oxford Poetry Library, Oxford Playhouse, Live Illustration and Robyn MacDonald Knits.
Though the 'Meanwhile in Oxfordshire...' programme funding and our temporary access to 21 Park End Street, we've been able to provide affordable workspace to a handful of of small businesses and organisations that were otherwise priced out of space in Oxford.
The Community Works offers its residents an opportunity to occupy a valuable, high-traffic unit in the city centre without taking on the risk of lengthy and expensive lease agreements. This allows them to test and deliver their ideas in the company of other organisations doing the same, building a vibrant culture of mutual support and skill sharing. It also helps them to reach a wider audience with their work and to broaden their customer base.
The Community Works has also served to drive interest and footfall in the area that it is located, diversifying the offer and giving people more reasons to visit and spend time in Frideswide Square.