There has been a lot of change to town shopping centres such as Bournemouth over the past few years. Many stores, such as the former Beale’s and House of Fraser Department stores now lie empty. Two local inititiaves which have bucked the trend are housed in former department stores; Bobby’s (was Debenhams) and The Avenue (was Bealesons).
The Avenue is located in Bournemouth’s main pedestrian shopping street (Commercial Road). It can also be accessed from the rear via Avenue Road, which runs alongside The Gardens. When I first started coming to Bournemouth in the 90s, this indoor shopping centre was a lively place, but over time footfall has dropped and units become vacant. Now, to quote from The Avenue’s own website;
“The Avenue is being re positioned as a place where local independents will mix with bigger brands. A coffee come bike repair shop will provide the only covered café in the town centre. There will be offices, event spaces, a giant TV screen for public screenings and in due course a roof top bar and places to live.
Instead of being places to simply buy stuff, town centres need to offer something more interesting and meaningful. Four smaller spaces have been created specifically for smaller independents.”
The process is only just beginning, but The Avenue is slowly starting to transform into something a bit different to your everyday high street shopping experience.
High Street Stores
There are still some high street names in situ:
- Sports Direct
- The Perfume Shop
- The Works
In addition, there are an array independent shops:
- Beauty Park
- i Accessorise
- Lead Out Coffee and Bikes
- Simons Leather
My favourite thing about The Avenue are the Pop Ups. According to the Avenue’s philosophy: “Pop ups provide opportunity for new ideas to be trialled, vintage clothing, street food, food markets and themed events all provide reasons to visit.” For me, as a local, I love visiting The Avenue and Bobby’s to see what’s new since my last trip.
Lucanart – Stories of the Sea
At the rear of the complex, from now until Christmas, you can see ‘Stories of the Sea’; the art and photography of local artist Miroslav Lucan, aka Lucanart.
Not only can you admire Miroslav’s work, but the man himself is likely to be on site if you want to have a chat, buy some merchandise or even just admire that magnificent moustache.
As well as the completed work on display, you can see Miroslav working on a new maritime themed piece.
The complex’s former loading dock has been repurposed as a multi function event space with plans for a rooftop bar overlooking the Gardens. The Loading Dock hosts events like the South Coast Makers Market
It’s some way off reaching completion, but I look forward to visiting The Avenue in 2023 to see how the development is progressing. Plus, of course, do some shopping and see what’s going on in the pop ups.