Spark:York set to stay for another two years

Staying put… for a while at least. Photographs: Richard McDougall
20 Jan 2020 @ 7.01 pm
| Business

Spark:York is set to stay in town until 2022.

A two-year lease extension is expected to be offered to the box park on Piccadilly. It was due to close and move off the site by 30 June this year.

The extension is possible because there is no prospect of beginning permanent development of the site in the next couple of years.

Final approval rests with City of York Council executive member for finance and performance Nigel Ayre. He will decide on 14 February.

There are two main conditions to the extended lease:

  1. that Spark:York clads the exterior of the container units to comply with last July’s planning appeal
  2. that it receives extended planning permission.

A council report says:

  • The proposed lease extension will maintain the benefits of the existing lease to create footfall and economic vibrancy within the Castle Gateway area and continue to provide start up business development space for SMEs in the city centre until the site is ready for redevelopment.

Cladding within weeks

Spark:York on Piccadilly
Co-founder of Spark:York Sam Leach said this was a positive development.

They had been asking the council for clarification of the lease situation for some time, so they could let their tenants know, and make arrangements regarding the cladding.

The cladding has proved to be a contentious issue as some business people and councillors criticised Spark’s failure to comply with the planning decision, and the council’s lack of enforcement.

“The cladding needs to be delivered from a planning point of view,” Sam said. “Our angle to the council was, we accept that, but we said could you give us some clarity over the future – because it’s quite a substantial expense?”

The council’s response was held up by the election, he said. Now though, if the lease is extended, work on cladding the exterior would start within weeks.

The new lease would probably last until the end of March 2022.

New tenants

The first Spark:York screening of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Photograph: York Pride
Sam said ‘more than a dozen’ businesses that began in Spark have moved on into permanent accommodation, mostly in York – fulfilling its role as an enterprise incubator.

There are two food units and three non-food units vacant at the site. Now there is a chance to trade until 2022 he is hopeful of announcing some interesting new tenants in the near future.

“We’ve got possible new tenancies to announce quite soon. I can’t specify exactly – possibly with university stuff and co-work space, new food units and other things.”

Sam said:

  • The extension allows us to offer really good business opportunities. It means of security for our current tenants which will enable them to invest and develop.

    For us, we want to improve our community rooms and our event spaces. In 2018/19 we had over 100 community groups that used the space.

    With more time we get to do more and have more impact.

Spark’s events and businesses gave people a reason to visit Piccadilly at a time “when the area is in great flux”

He said the proposed lease “is a real positive for us and everyone who’s been involved”.