The University of York has signed a 15 year lease of the Guildhall, which will bring the historic building back to the forefront of the city’s social, business and civic life.
Restoration and redevelopment of the Guildhall began in September 2019, following significant investment by City of York Council and is expected to be completed at the end of October 2021. The University of York will begin the lease when the building works complete in the autumn.
This announcement will ensure the Guildhall’s role in the city is brought into the 21st century, and will allow for the Guildhall to become a city centre hub for business, enterprise and events.
The Guildhall is one of the city’s most prestigious and historically significant buildings. The complex contains a collection of Grade I, II* and II listed buildings.
The Guildhall is currently closed to allow for restoration work to complete, which will offer:
High quality (business) office, meeting and events space
Availability for community, civic and council use
A new riverside restaurant
Access for visitors and local residents
Due to the Guildhall's central riverside location, use of the waterway has been critical for the delivery of materials to site, avoiding the City centre streets. The Canal & River Trust enabled contractors Vinci to use the river to erect an on-site tower crane as part of construction efforts. The project has now reached a crucial milestone with heavy construction work completed, the tower crane is currently being dismantled by a 100 tonne crane that is in place on a barge beside the River Ouse.
Funding for the £21.7m restoration and redevelopment work was provided by York City Council, the York and North Yorkshire LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority through respective HMG Growth Deal contributions and the Getting Building Fund.
The building will be leased to York Science Park (YSPL), a subsidiary of the University of York. York Science Park offer support for entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to grow.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we live and work. In response to these changes, the Guildhall will provide a flexible and collaborative workspace for local businesses.
The newly refurbished Guildhall will provide greater access to local residents, through the creation of a new restaurant and public space, and members of the public will be invited to a series of scheduled events, offering an opportunity to learn more about the history of the building. More details will be announced over the upcoming months as the restoration works near completion.
The new riverside restaurant is not part of the lease and work is underway to attract a tenant.
The terms of the lease also ensures that the council will retain access to the Guildhall for civic events such as Mayor-making, and full council meetings. The building will also be used for community events.
This lease to the University was agreed by City of York Council Executive in November 2020and the terms are in-line with the original business case.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Keith Aspden, said:
“York’s historic Guildhall has been at the heart of the city’s social, business and civic life for centuries. We are delighted that the University of York has signed the lease, as we firmly believe that they are the ideal tenant to manage this historic asset.
“The University of York have experience in managing other historic buildings, such as Kings Manor, and are, of course, important partners in helping take forward our economic strategy to drive inward investment and inclusive growth in York.
“The Guildhall will also be accessible for local residents for the first time in many years, and I hope that everyone will have the chance to visit this excellent and historic building when renovations works are completed.”
Councillor Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Finance and Performance, added:
“The Guildhall restoration project has continued despite the pressures and challenges brought on by the pandemic, and I would like to thank everyone involved in this project for maintaining good progress during these difficult months.
“Once the restoration works have completed, the Guildhall will operate as a new business hub in the city centre, offering support to local businesses to start, stay and grow in York.
“Once completed, the guildhall will once again be the home of civic events and council meetings as it has been for centuries."
Professor Charlie Jeffrey, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of York, said:
“It is an exciting time for the University of York to be involved with the next era of the prestigious and historical building that is the Guildhall, right in the heart of the city of York.
“The renovated Guildhall will offer fantastic opportunities for collaborative working to support business start-ups, drive innovation and growth, and strengthen links between the University of York and partners in York and beyond. I look forward to seeing how the facilities at the Guildhall will be used by students and new businesses to support and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, including opportunities to promote social enterprise and charitable work for the benefit of the local community. All of this chimes directly with our commitment, as a University for Public Good, to work with like-minded partners to bring positive impact for our society.”
Office fit-out at the Guildhall is supported by investment from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, allocated by York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
David Dickson, Chair of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership Infrastructure and Joint Assets Board, added:
“We’re looking to a greener, fairer and stronger future as we navigate through the pandemic and projects like this will help our region get there. This high quality space for a range of businesses will create good growth for the local economy.”
Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and NP11 group of Northern local enterprise partnerships, said:
“Innovation and new ways of working will be key to the future prosperity of our region and the North, so it’s great to see the Guildhall being brought into new life for York’s business community.
“This project shows how important the £1 billion Growth Deal we secured with Government has been. Independent research we have commissioned shows it has delivered £12 worth of lasting benefits to the region for every £1 of Growth Deal funding invested.”