University to take on historic Guildhall complex following £21.7m restoration

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The University of York has signed a 15-year lease for the city’s Guildhall buildings.

Restoration and redevelopment of the Guildhall began in September 2019, following investment by City of York Council and is expected to be completed at the end of October 2021.

The university will begin the lease when the building works complete in the autumn. It will allow for the Guildhall to become a city centre hub for business, enterprise and events.

The Guildhall complex contains a collection of Grade I, II* and II listed buildings.

Once restoration is finished, it will offer office, meeting and events space, a café, and a new riverside restaurant. It will be available for community, civic and council use.

Funding for the £21.7m restoration 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 offers support for entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to grow.

The terms of the lease ensures 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.

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 they are the ideal tenant to manage this historic asset.

“The university 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.”

Cllr 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: “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.”

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, 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 £1bn Growth Deal we secured with Government has been.”