PLANS to revive Bournemouth’s Debenhams building under its original brand name of Bobby’s are a “cause for celebration”, a business leader has said.

As revealed in the Daily Echo yesterday, owner Verve Properties intends to reopen the building in the Square under its historic brand name.

The first elements of the store are due to open in July, with more following this year and next.

Debenhams is set to close for good this Wednesday after the online fashion retailer Boohoo bought the brand but not its shops.

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber, said: “This is really fantastic news for Bournemouth and cause for celebration.

“We know the high street needs to change and these ambitious and exciting plans will really enhance the offer to consumers for both residents and visitors alike.

“This is also a beautiful landmark building right in the centre of town so it’s also great to hear about the sympathetic restoration of this iconic building.

“All businesses in the centre of Bournemouth will benefit from this great news.”

The plans for the building are being led by developer Verve Properties, which also owns and operates the Avenue Centre on nearby Commercial Road.

Town centre councillor Mike Greene said: “This is a great vote of confidence in the town centre.

“The vision that Verve have put forward is exciting and one looks forward to visiting Bobby’s as soon as possible.”

Cllr Phil Broadhead, deputy leader of BCP Council, said: “We’ve been working closely with the new owners of this amazing piece of Bournemouth’s heritage for some time now.

“It’s genuinely exciting to see a gem in the town’s crown being brought back to its former glory.

“Furthermore, this is a real statement about the future of our high streets: many were concerned about the loss of Debenhams, yet the reality is that its replacement will be a significant improvement,” he added.

The refurbished building is due to include:

  • An art gallery
  • A beauty floor
  • A sushi and plant-based Poke Bowl Bar
  • A nail bar, beauty bar and blow dry station
  • A male grooming salon;
  • A deli and vegan deli
  • A cafe
  • Market-style pods
  • A spa
  • A prosecco bar
  • An event space
  • A restaurant
  • A garden area
  • A micro brewery
  • A craft ale smokery bar and
  • A roof terrace.

Verve says the building will be restored as closely as possible to its original architectural splendour.

The Daily Echo’s exclusive story about the plans was so popular online that it trended on Twitter yesterday.

Twitter user Boycey wrote: “I very rarely go into Bournemouth but this sounds like something that might make me change my mind.

“I love the sound of what they’re proposing. So much better than a boring, formulaic department store.”

GALLERY: Do you remember the tills ringing at the Hampshire Centre, Bright's of Bournemouth or Bobby & Co?

Richard Vernon said: “I’m really looking forward to this.

“The middle of Bournemouth had lost its way. It’s an iconic building and to see it have new life breathed into it so quickly is a very positive story for the town.”

Blogger Ellie Warren said: “This is great news, especially after the loss of Beales.

“It sounds like they have some good ideas too.”

Alex Deutsch wrote: “Great news about Bobby’s opening in Bournemouth Town Centre. This combined with the investment of the new five star hotel and it looks like people are willing to risk a few venture attempts. Only takes a couple to be a catalyst for area development.”

Tommyndcompany wrote: “I genuinely believe that this can be the start of a new Bournemouth. It only takes one person to put some love into the town to have a domino affect and bring Bournemouth back to how it was even 10 years ago. Bricks and mortar retail is essential to the economy.”

The original Bobby & Co opened in Bournemouth Square in its purpose-built store in May 1915.

It later became part of the Debenhams business and took the Debenhams name in 1972.