The future of York’s historic Guildhall has been secured for at least the next 15 years as the University of York has signed a lease to take over the complex.
The civic landmark dates back to the 15th century and was home to City of York Council until 2013.
It was in need of extensive restoration work and the council has revealed that the project to bring the buildings back into use has now cost nearly £22m.
The redevelopment is set to finally be completed by the end of October.
The building will be leased to York Science Park, a subsidiary of the University of York, for the next 15 years and it will provide space and support for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.
It will also have offices, space for events and a cafe.
And civic ceremonies, including the annual Lord Mayor-making event and full council meetings, will once again be held at the complex.
There will also be a riverside restaurant, which is not part of the lease. The council is seeking a separate tenant for this part of the development.
Professor Charlie Jeffery, vice chancellor of the university, 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 for the benefit of the local community.”
Council leader Keith Aspden said: “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 has experience in managing other historic buildings, such as King’s Manor, and are, of course, important partners in helping take forward our economic strategy to drive inward investment and inclusive growth in York.”
Work on the restoration project began in September 2019 and was due to finish in autumn 2020, meaning the project has run a year over schedule.
Contractors remained on site throughout the pandemic, but the project was hit by several major setbacks including high river levels making it difficult to access the riverside construction area, archaeological discoveries including historic human remains and delays to the building supply chain.
Long held ambitions
The Guildhall is made up of a complex of Grade I, II* and II-listed buildings.
The council has long held ambitions to redevelop and restore the site, with previous attempts to get the project off the ground being stalled until the latest proposals were approved in 2019.
The last significant repairs carried out to the building before this restoration project were completed in 1960, after the Guildhall was damaged during the Baedeker raids in the Second World War.
The complex will open to visitors for a series of scheduled events at which they can learn more about the history of the site.
The redevelopment project was funded by the council, the York and North Yorkshire LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority.