Plans to demolish a row of shops to make way for new residential tower blocks for students in Portsmouth would be "another nail in the coffin" for the high street, traders have claimed.
Developer Fusion Students has submitted plans for a six-storey, a 20-storey and a 27-storey building in Arundel Street to house 591 students.
Bookshop owner Lee Hobson said the area "desperately needs" occupied shops.
Fusion Students said the development would "revitalise the area".
Mr Hobson, who has launched a petition calling for the plans to be scrapped, said he was "surprised" to find out the shop he leases was earmarked for demolition.
"New buildings have been popping up all around the town centre to accommodate students," he said.
"Local businesses need to rejuvenate and bring in more people to the town centre. Taking shops away from the shopping centre is just another nail in the coffin," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Don Price, who runs the neighbouring home decor shop S&D Sparkles, said: "We have been in the shop since September and we were told the lease would be for a year with the possibility to extend.
"We don't want to spend lots of money on decorating the place if it's going to be knocked down.
"Portsmouth has already got massive university blocks."
A spokesman for Fusion Students said there was "demand for purpose-built student accommodation" in the city.
"The redevelopment of this site will bring over 590 students into the heart of Portsmouth's city centre, helping to revitalise the area and invest in the economy.
"We're proposing a new retail store in our proposals, which along with our development will ensure that Arundel Street remains active."
Portsmouth City Council is due to make a decision on the planning application at a later date.