The Debenhams building in Bournemouth is to be replaced by a department store which closed in the seaside town almost 50 years ago.
The building’s new owners, development company Verve Properties, have announced plans to restore the old Bobby’s department store in The Square, in the city center, and create a shopping center with “local, independent and socially responsible ”.
Bobby’s was first opened by the provincial department store group Bobby & Co in 1915. As part of the restoration of the building, the entrance to the 1933 store is also expected to be restored.
Debenhams has confirmed that its Bournemouth store, which took its name in 1972, was among its retail stores which were due to close for the last time in mid-May, following the collapse of the business and the subsequent sale of its website and brand to online fashion retailer Boohoo, in a £ 55million bailout deal.
The first elements of the new store are expected to open in July, with more to follow throughout the year and into 2022.
An independent beauty operation, Bobby’s Beauty Hall, will be among the first outlets to open, with an ice cream parlor and cafe and dog cafe in the Lower Gardens nearby.
The store’s first floor will host a food and market hall, which will be revealed from The Square with the opening of the large windows on the building’s first floor.
The second floor will feature an art gallery and there are plans to open spa facilities in 2022.
Accessible from Terrace Road, the old buildings to the rear will be reorganized to create a garden and microbrewery bar, while plans are also in place to open a fourth-floor restaurant and rooftop bar.
Verve Properties said she hoped her commitment to restoring the famous Bobby’s brand to Bournemouth would be well received by residents and visitors.
Ashley Nicholson, Director of Verve Properties, said: “Historically, Bobby’s has always been at the heart of downtown and the community. When we started our history research, we continued to find out how much the building was integrated into the community.
“We also found that much of the architectural detail had survived but was hidden away – so we took inspiration from that and sought to restore what we could to bring back the grandeur of this iconic building, while also introducing some modernity. to make it suitable for today. “
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To celebrate the building’s original architectural style, its copper domes will be repaired, its flag poles put back in place while its 1970s glass roof will be removed and replaced with the original design. New ornate balconies on the first floor will be installed to match those currently installed.
Verve Properties said it will ensure the department store regeneration reflects the changes the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated in social and business models.
Mr. Nicholson said, “If shoppers are tempted to return to downtown areas, then retailers need to value three key elements in any new structure and design.
“The first is to think about what kind of shopping experience people will still want to have ‘in real life’ – beauty, clothes and shoes are good examples of retail that people want to try in person. .
“The second element should focus on how to make the shopping experience fun and enjoyable. The third should be to remember that at the end of the day, downtowns are there to serve the local community. “
He said it would “take time” to return Bobby’s back to its former glory as the building had “suffered from a lack of investment for many years.”
He added: “With the patience and support of the community, this project can play an important role in reimagining the city center in a post-Covid world.”
Bobby & Co was founded when Frederick James Bobby bought a drapery shop in Margate, Kent, in 1887. At the start of the 20th century, the business grew, opening mainly in seaside towns in southern England .
The company then became part of the Drapery Trust retail group, from which Debenhams had emerged in the 1950s. Debenhams renamed all of its subsidiaries, including Bobby’s in Bournemouth, in the early 1970s.