THE company behind the renovation of an “ugly” shopping centre in Bournemouth is seeking permission for a wide range of businesses to fill the new venue as the high street continues to face “one of the toughest periods in recent years”.

The Avenue in Commercial Road will be refurbished after Verve Properties won approval for its plans in May.

The “ugly black glass façade” will be replaced with a ‘living wall’ covered in greenery, the company said. Some of the original Art Deco features of the building, which was formerly Bealesons department store, will be restored.

A giant seven-metre TV screen will also be installed on the outside for screening events like the Bournemouth Air Festival.

Verve is now applying for planning permission for a range of business types to fill the new shopping centre. As well as traditional shops, restaurants and bars, the centre could host pop-up businesses and food traders. There could also be vintage markets, art shows, and other events.

The centre’s current key tenants – HMV, Sports Direct and the Perfume Shop – will be staying.

Having a range of flexible uses for the new centre will “respond to the current crisis affecting the retail sector”, Verve’s planning application states.

There is a “need for retailers to entice shoppers into an experiential shopping centre environment,” it continues.

“The concern about the future of the nation’s town centres is the subject of significant research and national political scrutiny. The House of Commons’ Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee undertook an inquiry to assess the changes taking place in the retail sector and town centres and published its recommendations in February 2019 in a report titled ‘High Streets and Town Centres in 2030’.

“It identifies that an enormous change has taken place in retail in recent years. The traditional pattern of making purchases in physical stores, both in and out-of-town, has been profoundly disrupted by the growth of online shopping. The impact of this on town centres in the form of store closures, persistently empty shops and declining footfall is clear for all to see.”

Paul Kinvig, chief operating officer of the Bournemouth Town Centre Business Improvement District, said the plans for The Avenue were “really exciting”.

“The developers are mirroring what they’ve done in Bristol with the Paintworks Project,” he said.

“The Avenue is an opportunity to provide something very different for Bournemouth. An experiential mix of retail, leisure, and pop-ups will be great and give people a range of reasons to come to the town.”