THE heart of Torquay's struggling town centre has been given a major boost as a national chain prepares to move into a long-empty flagship building.
The move by rapidly expanding coffee company Coffee#1 into the former Post Office building in Fleet Street comes as not one, but three, new tenants are also due to open in Torquay's Union Square shopping complex.
Coffee#1 has a string of cafes in Wales and South West England, including Taunton, Bristol and Cardiff. The company has won the Best UK Coffee Chain title for the past four years. The new outlet could create eight to 10 new jobs and be open for the summer.
The latest boost for the town centre comes after Hoopers department store on The Strand revealed plans for a £500,000 refurbishment.
Union Square centre director Richard Rendle-Jones confirmed they have three new tenants.
Aroma Bella is hoping to be open in the next week or so and Premiere Video is hoping to open tomorrow.
Another unit is also expected to be taken by Nicky's Nursery and Toy Shop which is expanding from Paignton.
Coffee#1 managing director Philip Lay said a planning application had been submitted for changes to the imposing Post Office building which will open up its windows to the street.
He said: "We're hoping to give new life to the building which has been vacant for around 10 years.
"We hope to provide Torquay with a warm and vibrant coffee house which has a homely feel. We're proud to be opening a store in Torquay. It's a thriving, historic town full of character and a warm community feel.
"Once planning permission is granted we can start recruiting a team from the local area."
Paul Bettesworth, director for retail and business space at agents Bettesworths, said: "This is positive news for Torquay."
He said the difficulty of converting the historic facade of the GPO site to a commercial display use has been the sole reason no retailer or operator has considered this unit for so long.
"All they plan to do is drop the existing window sills to floor level," he said.
"These sympathetic proposed alterations make all the difference, while not upsetting the look of the building. Clearly this is good news for the town centre.
"Coffee is the big growth sector and operators such as this become destinations for shoppers and decent footfall pullers for the rest of the town centre."
Mr Rendle-Jones said Aroma Bella was one of the shops he was keen to see in the centre.
The natural skin care company is moving from Fleet Street into a high-profile unit at the entrance to Wilkinson in the centre.
They are fitting it out and hope to be open soon.
Premiere Video, a new operator to the town, is opening nearby and hopes to be open on Friday.
Mr Rendle-Jones said: "We are very pleased to have new retailers in the centre. We are doing a lot to try to encourage new tenants from marketing to asking retailers if they would consider Union Square.
"People coming to the end of their leases are seeing opportunities to change and are putting in offers, quite good offers in their terms, on new premises which are being accepted. The economic conditions are being recognised."
Rachael Weaver, Torquay town centre manager, said: "After a difficult start to the year it's great to see signs of positive things on the horizon for Torquay's high street. The town centre is attracting investment and many businesses are looking forward to seeing summer arrive and the many visitors this will bring. It will be fantastic to see the GPO building brought back into productive use again.
"This is a lovely building within a key location in Torquay town centre and to have such a high quality business as Coffee#1 invest in Torquay on the back of Hooper's recent announcement of their £500,000 refurbishment is very positive news indeed."