2012, A year in the life of: Drake Circus
Throughout December, thisisplymouth.co.uk looks back at the past year in Plymouth. We will delve into what happened during the last 12 months for people, organisations and even buildings in Plymouth. Today we will be looking at Drake Circus.
Apart from your average shopper., 2012 saw Drake Circus visited by robots, breakdancers, human bees and even charitable zombies hungry for a book signing.
Plymouth's main shopping centre started the year, if you will pardon the pun, on a roll by gaining a gold star standard in the Loo of the Year Awards. The mall received the Five Gold Star Award for its toilets for the fifth year in a row.
However, the year also started with a stark warning from traders in Plymouth's West End who were predicting a hugely difficult 2012. Their worry was that Drake Circus was part of the reason that a retailvoid was splitting Plymouth city centre in two.
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One of the shops who felt the effects of the void was Dave Moor who said his Moor and More Beer emporium, in Frankfort Gate, had to close due to a lack of shoppers in the West End of the city centre.
He blamed the recession-hit economy and the pull of Drake Circus – and said the £3.2million revamp of the city centre's West End had done nothing to encourage footfall and even left businesses out of pocket.
Shops in Drake Circus also felt the brunt force of a slow economy during 2012. The Zara fashion store closed with the loss of 26 jobs, and the Bershka fashion unit next to also shut. A new fashion store and a perfume retailer later filled the two spaces. Another newcomer was Japanese food chain YO! Sushi which opened a 64-seat restaurant at Drake Circus. It is the chain's first Plymouth outlet.
The arrivals came as the new manager of the mall, Greg Lumley revealed that part of his brief is to bring in shops which have previously been unknown to Plymouth.
Mr Lumley stressed that he was not just interested in boosting the British Land-owned mall – but Plymouth's beleaguered shopping area in general.
He said the £200 million mall can not exist in isolation from the rest of the city centre. How the parties can work together might be a story we will hear more of in 2013.
During the last year, Plymothians used Drake Circus for much more than shopping. For example
City College Plymouth opened a pop-up shop in the shopping centre, to host all of the college’s faculties over three weeks of trading.
Science students and engineers from Plymouth University publicised their robots and other scientific displays, around 60 young breakdancers from across the Westcountry took to the floor and gave shoppers a show stopping performance, activists aiming to raise awareness and knowledge of the dramatic decline in bees in recent years used the Jigsaw garden outside the Drake Circus mall for a 'Bee Tea Party, and people dressed up for the annual charitable zombie walk ended their walk at the Waterstone's in the shopping centre.
In the autumn Drake Circus was even hit by a bomb scare. Ironically, it was later found that the suspicious package that had cause the scare was actually a safety device.
During the year, Plymouth and Drake Circus saw small signs that the economy might be getting better with the shopping centre's sales rising in line with national figures during the autumn. The next indication of which way the retail economy is headed might be the Christmas sales.
2012 also revealed the fact that rake Circus will be getting a striking new neighbour, at a new £4 million art college building is to go up at Drake Circus over the next year.
What have been your favourite moments and/or stories about Drake Circus this year? And what other people, organisations and buildings would you like to see us use for the 'A year in the life of series?
Selected 2012 stories about Drakes Circus: