Today, 15 Mill Street, Wantage is home to The Mix - a popular community space hosting a wide range of events, workshops and local group meetings as well as a number of business people who use it as a hot-desking facility.
When our town team project started, the building was very different – a former off-licence, but now one of the 23 empty units in town and in a poor way inside and out. To add to the challenge, the landlords are based in London and have a large property holding around the country making Number 15 and its equally empty neighbour 13, which they also owned, less than high on the priority list.
But for the Town Team it was important as it sat opposite two other then empty units which were in good condition and ready to let, one of which became home to the town’s first Flashop pop up shop. And it soon became clear that the unsightly 15 and 13 opposite were a barrier to businesses taking on the units opposite post pop up and longer term.
The Mix early doors
So, drawing on one of the range of solutions, the town team worked on to help tackle the empty shops issue, we agreed a rent free period with the landlords to allow a programme of works to get Number 15 fit to use. The local co-operative group, Sustainable Wantage, took on the challenge with brilliant support from local people and tradesfolk who – as the images here show – set about the task.
Once it was ready to go, Sustainable Wantage became the tenant and introduced the beginnings of the range of community-focused activities that are hosted there today. Several local groups make use of the space, ranging from a monthly craft group to French conversation and charity meetings. It hosts a regular calendar of skillshare workshops and learning events – a number of them in partnership with Abingdon & Witney College. Workshops include Pallet DIY, Upholstery, Fruit tree grafting, First Aid training for volunteers, Get to know your sewing machine, and a wide range of upcycling activities such as making cushions and reversible bags from fabric sample books. The Mix also hosts a Resource Bank, collecting from individuals and businesses and redistributing to schools and local projects. Last year 1,800kgs of ‘waste’ was repurposed through workshops and resource swaps. It’s also available to hire on a hot-desking basis, find out more here.
From a long-unused and unsightly empty unit to a vibrant community hub, and a valuable part of our town team approach which says that while our shops, salons, restaurants, cafes and non-retail businesses all play an important part in the long term vitality of our town centre, other uses, beyond ‘retail’, are crucial too, and The Mix is a great example of that.
The Mix Interiors
The Mix Interiors
© Wantage Town Team