A former Chinese restaurant in Frideswide Square that has been empty for about a decade is now opening as a community hub.

The new hub, opposite the train station, is in a unit owned by Nuffield College.

It has remained empty since the Oriental Condor restaurant closed but will now feature a cafe and restaurant, a community lounge, and separate rehearsal, event and studio spaces, opening in the coming weeks.

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The Community Works will be the latest location in the city centre run by local community interest company, Makespace Oxford, which is based in Aristotle Lane.

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The building is a flagship of the city council’s Meanwhile in Oxfordshire programme, which seeks to reanimate empty and underused spaces in Oxford’s urban centres.

Among the resident businesses coming into the space are Lula’s Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine, who have run a stall at Oxford’s regular food markets, and JF, a takeaway cafe outpost of The Jam Factory, a short distance away in the square.

Lula Kinnaird, founder and owner of Lula’s Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine, said: “It’s been our dream to open a space that can bring the community together, and provide a welcoming atmosphere to enjoy good food with great company.”

Andrew Norton, co-owner of the Jam Factory, said: “We are proud to be a part of the Community Works.

Oxford Mail:

“We are looking forward to serving coffee, snacks and mum’s cakes to everyone. Frideswide Square and the wider area has an already diverse offering and it’s exciting to see new enterprises added to the collective.”

Next to the cafe and restaurant, the community lounge will provide a permanent location for the previously-mobile Oxford Poetry Library.

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“We’ve been a mobile library operating out of a big purple cargo bike since we were founded in 2017, but having a physical space will make a huge difference to our ability to reach a wider audience,” said OPL founder Phoebe Nicholson.

The lounge will also provide an opportunity for individuals and organisations to display artwork. The Community Works also houses a private rehearsal and events space that will be occupied by Oxford Playhouse. And a studio at the back will be occupied by Live Illustration LTD; a cooperative of local sketch, paint, knit and media artists.

Penny Lawrence, Makespace Oxford’s strategic director, said: “The Community Works is a brilliant example of the potential of ‘meanwhile’ space’.”

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The redevelopment was funded through the council’s Meanwhile in Oxfordshire programme, which secured capital to refurbish units in urban centres through Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the government’s Getting Building Fund.

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City council leader Susan Brown said: “We hope local people will really get behind The Community Works and embrace this new shared space for everybody to use.”

Lulu's is now open.