The world has changed. Covid accelerated trends are already underway. Localism, community, experience and sustainability have now become embedded in our expectations of a town centre and retail. Bobby's, with its iconic facade and focal location aims to act as a catalyst for Bournemouth's reinvention. Rather than compete with the Internet, Bobby’s aims to offer things it can’t provide. Anchor stores are no longer a draw, instead town centres need to offer multiple individual reasons for returning. Our vision is to create a new Bournemouth, a regionally significant destination connected to the local community, centred on beauty, health, craft & gifting, food and beverage, art, culture, workspace and locally focused events and community engagement.
Building work has been split into a number of phases to ensure the store remains open. With its prominent position in town, it is vital the lights remain on whilst the renovation works are carried out. Phase one opened on 9th September 2021, with further elements opening throughout the year and into 2022. First to open was Bobby’s Beauty Hall, Bobby’s Ice Cream Parlour, DRGNFLY Champagne & Sushi, GIANT art gallery, In-Time Watch Repair and The South Coast Makers Shop. In early 2022 local community events were launched such as The Enchanted Nanny children's story telling, biscuit decorating workshops and the South Coast Makers Market. The lower floor and tunnel with direct access to Bournemouth Gardens reopened in October of 2022 with a new AFC Bournemouth store as well as lifestyle products from Ivyline and local businesses Wild Roots Greenery and The Pawprint Boutique. Also planned for the building, is a rooftop restaurant, bar and roof garden, set to open in spring of 2024 and a craft ale bar and smokery, accessed from Terrace Road, is proposed to open at the latter stages of the project. Whilst parts of the first floor are being worked on, a rolling programme of activities, events and markets are being hosted in the space.
The property was acquired in late 2019 and Verve Properties, who recently transformed The Avenue Centre, are at the helm to bring the Bobby’s building back to life. Ashley Nicholson, Director of Verve Properties, says “Bobby’s has historically always been at the heart of the town centre and the community. 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 at 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 brought back, 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”.
Verve’s decision to take the project on came about due to a strong belief in the potential for UK high streets to reinvent themselves after the economic downturn of the past 10 years. Remembering that ultimately town centres are there to serve the local community is of utmost importance. It will take time to deliver Bobby’s back to its former glory, the building has suffered a lack of investment over many years, but with the patience and support of the community this project can play a significant role in the re-imagining of the town centre in a post Covid world. Regeneration is vital, but gentrification that alienates a community is the opposite of what new high street projects should be aiming for. We are therefore very excited to be able to bring this ethos to our plans for Bobby’s bringing back the glamour and the style of the original building from the early 20th Century.