• Gareth Pletts

Architecture, The High Street Hero: 4 ways to save high street buildings!

If there’s one thing the pandemic has demonstrated, it’s our deep need to socialise and be together. And whilst we’ve been spending more time in our homes our once thriving high street has been falling apart for a whole host of economic and social reasons.

Whilst this changing landscape may feel a bit bleak it presents an opportunity to create places that offer those much missed experiences and interactions in beautiful architecturally designed spaces.



1. Mixed Use Buildings

Footprint Architects are working with Bobby’s & Co in Bournemouth Town Centre to repurpose a tired and outdated building (formerly Debenhams) into a mixed use development that’s a real destination space. This project seems to really tap into what people want from their high streets right now - inspiring interiors, points of interest, social spaces and experiences.


Currently being opened in phases, Bobby’s & Co ticks all those boxes with a beauty hall & spa, sushi bar, ice cream parlour and unique food hall for dogs alongside the largest modern art gallery outside of London. Further works encompass a smokehouse, rooftop terraces, a restaurant, bars, tea rooms, offices, market stalls and a dedicated event space.


In most instances in these types of projects, an architect can take the existing shell and reconfigure & renovate to meet new or multiple uses. Additionally, if the refurbishment is designed and programmed carefully it can get the space to the market quicker than a new-build project would. It’s a win-win.

By taking this approach we unearthed some real architectural treasures - copper domes on the roof, balconies and flagpoles.



2. Sustainable High Streets

Of course, the added benefit of reinventing obsolete retail space & commercial property is that it’s a great big green alternative to demolition and rebuilding, and that sits pretty well with us.

One of our clients who recognise the value of preserving the history of the high street is cosmetics giant Lush. Sustainability has always been at the very core of what they do.



We’ve worked with them to restore two listed properties on Poole’s old High Street where they leveled-up their existing shopping experience with the addition of a spa facility. This scheme achieved a perfect balance of sensitivity & respect to the historical shell whilst still delivering a modern spa, no compromises.


3. Refurbishment & Facelifts


It’s not just big, mixed use developments that are upping their game in terms of retail experience. At our Bournemouth based client Classic Eyes we were commissioned to modernise this opticians and retail unit in the heart of Bournemouth Town Centre.


Formally a squash court, the concept of the design was to open up the original building volume to the street frontage creating a series of ‘retail bridges’ and a procession through the space to the private consultation rooms which were reconfigured and positioned to the rear.


Meanwhile on St Michael’s Road in Bournemouth’s Triangle we’re working with Venaspace to create the type of office space that makes going to work a lot more appealing. This former masonic lodge is listed and quite rightly so, its beautiful high ornate ceilings and original cornices are quite the work of art.

At this site modern innovation is breathing new life into this special building with the addition of mezzanines and full height vaulted spaces alongside impactful interior design details.

4. Making New Spaces

If refurbishment and retrofitting doesn’t create enough space there are all sorts of options for maximising profit at an existing commercial site to work with what you’ve got.

Footprint Architects came up with the idea of adding a lightweight rooftop floor onto Wilson House, an office space in central Bournemouth.

This lightweight addition clad in timber creates an efficient and cost effective solution, so much of it can be fabricated off-site and craned into position, reducing disruption on the site, the existing office and the surrounding road network.



If you’re considering undertaking a project like this we’d love to talk about how we can help you maximise its potential.



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