The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library at the former Rowntree factory site is set to be transformed into a community hub – with a glasshouse and pavilion to be constructed on land behind the building.
Joseph Rowntree first started a library for workers at the factory in 1885 by donating £10 of his own money, raising £10 from another source, and docking a penny a week from employees’ pay.
The memorial library was planned after his death in 1925 and opened in 1927 in the current Grade II-listed Arts and Crafts-style building in Haxby Road. It is currently vacant.
Under plans submitted by Latimer Developments, the library will be converted and extended to become a “concierge, study and co-working area”. The company is planning to create 279 apartments in the former Almond and Cream buildings behind the library and a further 299 apartments on another part of the site.
The single storey building behind the library which leads to the underpass beneath Haxby Road will be demolished. In its place a glass extension to the library will be built. It has been designed to echo the glasshouse at the Rowntree factory, where cocoa, vanilla and sugar cane were all grown.
Before and after pix
The plans say it will include space for growing plants, adding: “Cocoa, vanilla and sugar cane were grown within the factory grounds.
“A York bar of chocolate was once presented to the then Princess Elizabeth. It was made with cocoa, sugar and vanilla all grown in the greenhouse at the Rowntree factory.
“A glass house inspired extension to the library building celebrates the site history.
“The steps and basement which originally formed part of a subterranean connection to the east side of Haxby Road will be covered over.
“The route was stopped up many years ago and the basement space is damp, difficult to access and no longer provides viable, beneficial space.”
Café and community space
A new pavilion building will be created behind the library, with the developer saying the design is inspired by a box of chocolates.
It will include a cafe and community space, which the developers suggest could be used for yoga classes, exhibitions, film nights, children’s parties, parent groups and theatre productions.
The application also features plans for the gardens outside the Almond and Cream, buildings. There will be a children’s play area, residents’ gardens and purpose-built bike storage.
A planning statement says: “The collection once found at the library was initially formed by Joseph Rowntree, beginning in the 1880s, to provide reading material for workers at the Rowntree factory.
“The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library was planned out in 1925 following Joseph Rowntree’s death in that year, and it was constructed in 1927. The building remained in use as a library for a period, operated by the city council, but now stands empty.
“In an age of digital media, the concept of the library has evolved beyond a repository for written information.
“Although books are still important to the idea of a library, this now only forms a part of a wider picture.
“The extension to the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library facilitates access to information digitally through providing collaborative work spaces to a growing population of workers, freelancers and students in search of working environments away from the home and the office.
“It also provides access to information through experience and communication by offering a flexible community space designed to function in multiple configurations.”
The plans can be viewed here.