SOME retail units in Oxford’s High Street have been sat empty for most of the pandemic, but exciting new plans could change the high street for the better.

In May, the Oxford Mail found High Street had nine empty units, the most of any street documented, as part of the investigation.

At the time, many of the units were in a state of disrepair, with cracked windows and graffiti and old posters covering the store fronts.

Now, two of those empty shops could be turned into offices while others could be housing new hospitality businesses, including an Italian restaurant and a diner.

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As troubled café chain Patisserie Valerie closed its doors for the last time in early 2020, before the pandemic, the unit at n90 sat unused.

Last month, an application to Oxford City Council, the planning authority, revealed that Rick’s Diner will be taking over the shop.

Bosses at the eatery, who already have a branch on Cowley Road, have asked the council to replace the pink Patisserie Valerie hanging sign with a brown one reading “Rick’s Diner”.

Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society commented on the application saying they had concerns over the use of Dulux heritage paint as the building is Grade II listed, and the council is expected to make a decision next month.

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Meanwhile, the Mitre pub could become an Italian restaurant run by the Gusto chain.

The pub, which is thought to be the city's oldest, is owned by Lincoln College and has been closed since 2019.

Earlier this year Dave Richardson, of the Oxford branch of real ale group CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), said it was becoming an eyesore.

The pub company has the lease for the pub, and a planning application for the Gusto chain has now been submitted to the city council to convert the pub's interior into a restaurant.

The Mitre has a 13th century cellar and used to display a list of landlords dating back to 1230, although the building today dates from the 17th century.

Further along the high street, St Edmund Hall, who owns n52 and n55, wants to convert them into office spaces and welfare facilities for their team and has submitted an application to Oxford City Council, the planning authority.

The works would include new gates and general internal refurbishment into offices. The basement to n52, which was formerly Hardy’s Sweetshop and is Grade II listed, would be tanked and lined to make it habitable.

The former Podorok gift emporium at n55 would be turned into offices for the college’s accounts team.

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

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