This is the bold new vision for Piccadilly in York – a ‘box park’ housing shops, cafés and community projects inside former shipping containers.
Called Spark:York, the start-up business hub could be up and running by spring next year.
The idea is to transform the former Reynards garage site into a buzzing enterprise centre during the day, and a social and performance space at night.
Dreamed up by three young entrepreneurs from York, the plans have been submitted to City of York Council.
Tom McKenzie and Sam Leach, both 23, and Joe Gardham, 36, hope Spark:York will provide employment for young people and kick-start the regeneration of York’s neglected ‘Southern Gateway’.
A shared passion for social enterprise brought the three together. They have visited other successful shipping container hubs in London, including Pop Brixton and Boxpark in Shoreditch.
Spark:York will consist of 15 upcycled shipping containers, arranged over two levels. It is designed by award-winning architect Carl Turner, who featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs, and is the man behind Pop Brixton.
This will be the first scheme of its kind in the North of England: “It’s something new and authentically different,” Joe told YorkMix.
They can be decorated in many different colours and designs, with the Spark:York community deciding on the style and brand.
Tom McKenzie said:
Spark will strengthen York’s early evening offer, by providing somewhere for the after-work crowd through the week, or for people looking to relax on a weekend.
We’ve visited similar places across Europe and are really excited to bring this experience to York.
Who could move in
Joe said: “York is full of talented and visionary people. We are creating an affordable and inclusive space in the middle of town that will create opportunities for local people to realise their ambition.”
This might be a local chef with a unique culinary idea, a budding retailer who can’t afford a space in town, or a volunteer who wants to take their charitable ideas to the next level.
Sam said it was about providing something new, not just another hotel or more flats. They are particularly keen to help a younger generation prosper.
“This is about providing things for younger people and allowing them to contribute to the local economy,” Sam told YorkMix.
“If we can give space for young, ambition people we can bring more industry to the city centre.”
York seems to lack that one pinnacle hotspot where the city fuses over great music, art and food. A project like Spark:York will fill the gap whilst allowing local and independent businesses to blossom.”
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How it works
They are either 20ft or 40ft long by 8ft wide
A 40ft container costs £1,500-£2,000 second hand
The 40ft containers can be divided into up to three units
A container can be ready in two days
They are insulated and waterproof, fitted with plumbing and electricity, and can be fitted with a variety of windows and doors
Containers aren’t permanent and can be moved if new plans emerge for the site
Spark:York is looking for local entrepreneurs with both a viable business plan and a community ethos
They would get a one-year lease with the option to make it longer
A free business advice hub would help with everything from accounts to insurance
Income streams for Spark:York will include…
Donations from philanthropists who share their vision
Grants for urban regeneration projects
Rent – “we’re not there to maximise profit so we’ll look to keep rents as low as possible”
Transforming the street
“Piccadilly doesn’t have a really unified community that was going to revive the street but it has the same potential as you’ve seen in Fossgate, Bishy Road and other parts of the city,” Joe said.
Reynards garage site, Piccadilly
Plans submitted Nov 2016; first tenants could move in April 2017
Register interest via [email protected]
Spark:York would provide that catalyst.
“The aim is that it’s always buzzing, there’s always things going on. Which would be great for the city, and bring people into the area,” Sam told us.
“We want to create somewhere that’s the birthplace of many different spaces and ventures.”
The team, who were all brought up and educated in York, want to give something new to the city.
They say the idea has already generated enthusiasm: “The council have been very receptive and have encouraged us so far,” said Sam.
As things stand the park would be looking for at least three years in that space. It could stay longer on Piccadilly, but if things change, it might move to another suitable space in the city.
And the idea could grow, Joe says; “there are hopes the community could develop this model across the city and the north of England:”.