Contractors employed to construct a new accommodation site for Jesus College have this week completed demolition of the row of shops which previously occupied the site of the new complex.

The lot originally housed a number of high street shops including Next, FatFace and River Island. The block, Northgate House, was originally constructed in the 1960s as part of an array of development works along Cornmarket Street which included Clarendon House, currently occupied by Wasabi.

The land was leased to the shops by Jesus College, who own the properties and the leasehold.

Works began in September 2018, however the new development will begin to take form from now onwards. Proposals put forward

by Jesus College and approved by the city council form part of Jesus College’s master plan for 2017-2021 to expand the college, with the new block due to provide additional accommodation for students at the college as well as a new set of teaching spaces.

The project was partly funded by a gift of £15 million to the college by Hong Kong entrepreneur Dr Henry Cheng.

Plans have been generally well received. The lower level of the building will continue to provide space for retail units which front onto Cornmarket Street, preserving the retail heritage of the road. The units will also include space for 38 new cycle spaces.

Architecturally the building isdefined by vertical elements, tallwindows and narrow shop fronts intended to tie in with the historic visage of the street, which would originally have been made up of narrow plots intended for use by merchants’ houses.

The only property on Cornmarket which retains its original historical form is lot 26-68, also owned by Jesus College. The lot, which currently houses Pret A Manger, was constructed in 1386 but restored by the college in 1983.

The clearance of the retail blockalso provides for the first time aclear line of sight from Cornmarket Street onto Jesus College’s Second Quad, although this will change once the project is completed in 2020.

The architectural significance of the quad’s Dutch gables have been noted by architectural historian Pevsner as well as author Simon Jenkins, who compared the windows to Welsh dragons’ teeth.

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