// Plans unveiled to restore Bournemouth’s Bobby’s branding for the first time in almost 50 years
// The building originally opened as Bobby & Co in 1915 and has traded as Debenhams since 1972
// Debenhams is set to close down on May 12, making way for developers to restore building to former glory
Plans have been revealed to bring back Bournemouth’s iconic Bobby’s building back to its former glory after Debenhams exits the site.
Verve Properties, the developers who also recently transformed the nearby Avenue Centre, plan to restore the Bobby’s branding of the building for the first time in almost 50 years, complete with many of the original features reinstated or uncovered.
The building, located in The Square, has been the site of a department store since May 1915 when it first opened as Bobby & Co before eventually being known as Bobby’s.
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It was acquired by Debenhams in 1972 and was subsequently rebranded as such.
Debenhams is now set to close down its Bournemouth site on May 12.
Verve Properties said it now has plans in place for the first parts of the restored Bobby’s department store to reopen in mid-July this year, with more elements opening through the rest of the year and into 2022.
First to open will be Bobby’s beauty hall, a sushi and plant-based poke bowl bar, a traditional ice cream and coffee parlour, an art gallery, and a dog café in the Lower Gardens.
The beauty hall will have local, sustainable brands sitting alongside the big brands not previously available at the Debenhams, as well as a nail bar, treatment rooms and female and male grooming services.
The watch repairing station In Time will also be retained.
On the first floor the large windows overlooking The Square will be opened up, new balconies installed, and the floor will house a food and market hall.
Spa facilities are in the planning stages and will hopefully open in 2022.
The second floor will house an art gallery with more details to be revealed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, access from Terrace Road, old buildings at the rear will be reorganised to create a garden area and a micro-brewery, craft ale smokery bar.
Following that, plans are in place to open a fourth floor restaurant and bar and roof terrace bar.
The Retail Gazette understands that Verve Properties will be the developers of the Bobby’s building and manage some of the retail space directly, but there will also be independent retailers within it.
The reactions to hearing about the closure of the Debenhams had caused concern as locals had worried that without a department store that has dominated shopping on The Square and been a focal point of socialisation for over a century, people would be driven away.
There were also concerns about losses of local jobs.
“Bobby’s has historically always been at the heart of the town centre and the community,” Verve Properties director Ashley Nicholson said.
“When we started our research into the history, we kept unearthing how bedded into the community the building was.
“We also found much of the architectural detail had survived but was covered up – so we took inspiration from that and have sought to restore what we can to bring back the grandeur of this iconic building, whilst the same time introducing some modernity to make it fitting for today.
“The copper domes will be repaired, the flagpoles reinstated, the 1970’s canopy removed and replaced by the original design, the 1933 front entrance designs reinstated, new ornate first floor balconies to match the others installed and so on, all of which aims to be front and centre of our plans for a rebirth and celebration of both the Bobby’s name and original architectural style”.
He added: “If shoppers are going to be tempted back into town centres, then retailers need to value three key elements in any new structure and design.
“The first is to consider what kind of shopping experience people will still want to happen “in real life”- beauty, clothing and footwear are good examples of retail that people want to try out in person.
“The second element should focus on how to make the shopping experience a fun and enjoyable one.
“The third should be to remember that ultimately town centres are there to serve the local community.”