THE Bournemouth shopping centre that contains HMV and Sports Direct has been sold to a company that specialises in “breathing new life into unloved buildings”.

The Avenue has been bought by Verve Properties, which hopes to add pop-up businesses, food traders, vintage markets, arts shows and events.

Its key tenants – HMV, Sports Direct and the Perfume Shop – will be staying in the centre, which changed hands for an undisclosed sum.

Verve Properties was responsible for the Paintworks Project in Temple Meads Bristol, which is turning a derelict paint factory into a mix of shops, homes and restaurants. It is described as the city’s creative quarter, with more than 300 businesses.

Verve director Ashley Nicholson said: “Our skills are all about ‘place’ making. Many landowners tend to prioritise short term returns over what a place is like in which to work, live, visit or shop. We try to get the ‘feel’ bit right and take a longer view than most.

“Detailed proposals are currently being developed for The Avenue Centre and it is hoped the first visible improvements can be in place by Easter. A priority is to change the dated black glazed frontage on Commercial Road and planning will be submitted shortly.

“Clearly retail as we’ve known it is changing and town centres will react accordingly. In future they will be more diverse with experiential shopping and leisure activities where people will still want to congregate and interact. They will also want to live near to the life and vitality, so town centres will become more mixed use, and this is being recognised by Bournemouth council with their own redevelopment plans for various town centre car parks.”

He added: “The Avenue Centre is a substantial piece of property in a prime area of the town and we see this as a catalyst to arrest current pessimism and create greater offerings to the town centre as it morphs more into the way town centres will be in the future.

“The plans for the Avenue are still in the embryonic stage but we hope to attract familiar brands as well as accommodate pop-up businesses, food traders, vintage markets, art shows and events alongside the existing valued, multiple retailers. Again, we will be focusing on attracting the creatives in the Bournemouth area and we know that with the Arts University and the astonishing skills that are already in the town, there is no shortage of talent locally.”

Bournemouth council’s cabinet member for economic growth, Cllr Philip Broadhead, said:

“Having seen some of the exciting proposals from the new owners of the Avenue Centre – protecting, regenerating and revitalising the centre – I think Bournemouth has much to be excited about. It is very encouraging to see outside investors recognising the potential and keen to dramatically improve its offer.

“We already have a vibrant high street, bucking the national trend with an impressive 17 per cent increase in footfall year on year. Further investment, particularly in this key area of town, will only help this trend.”