Proposals to create a dynamic community centre at the heart of a favourite York park have been unveiled.
The park keeper’s lodge in Rowntree Park has lain empty for six years.
Plans to bring it back to life will be ‘a remarkable leap towards the future of Rowntree Park,’ say campaigners – and they want you to have your say.
The plans include a sympathetic refurbishment of all the rooms which will be available for hire for meetings, events and a variety of classes.
The project will also provide the Friends of Rowntree Park with a much-needed indoor office and meeting space, enabling year-round activities.
For nearly a century the two storeys above the York Explore Cafe were home to the park keepers, but they have been disused since the last keeper left in 2017.
Johnny Hayes is lodge project manager for the Friends of Rowntree Park. “This is a lovely building with the upper ground floor level being occupied by the wonderful and flourishing Explore Reading Café,” he said.
“But the unused top floors offer a fantastic opportunity for the community to use and enjoy. Its development is overdue after more than six years of being left empty following over 95 years of continuous use by the former park keepers.
Have your say
Everyone is welcome to a drop-in exhibition and public meeting on Thursday 28 September to find out more about the proposals, to ask questions and to share feedback on the plans.
Hosted at Southlands Church on Bishopthorpe Road, it will include architect plans for the scheme with models and business plan details. It will also include proposals for how the building will be adapted to make it accessible for all users.
The exhibition will be followed by a public meeting where those leading on the lodge development will present the proposals, with the opportunity for local residents to ask questions and comment on the plans.
Doors will be open for the exhibition from 11am to 7pm, followed by the public meeting from 7pm to 9pm.
“Our plans will put this remarkable space back into use by the local residents and the general public who use and love Rowntree Park.”
Chair of the Friends, Cath Mortimer, said: “This project is a remarkable leap towards the future of Rowntree Park and our entire community.”
Charity manager Abigail Gaines said: “Beyond maintaining and enhancing the park’s physicality, the Friends of Rowntree Park oversee crucial projects such as mental health programs, engaging children’s events, collaborations with local schools, and creative endeavors like ‘Art in the Park’ and ‘Make Space for Girls.’
“An indoor base within the park would be transformative for our charity, enabling substantial expansion.”
Johnny added: “We are also aware of the risk to the building if left empty. The West Bank Park Lodge was demolished in 2016 following a fire and years of vandalism, and it would be a huge loss to the park if this building suffered a similar fate.”
Gaining planning permission would be the next step. Then, Cath Mortimer said, “we are eager to begin fundraising in earnest to support completion of the renovation and to bring the lodge back to life for the benefit of the community.”