An open brief for a Hub or Exchange on York Central

Artist Julia Davis ran a workshop during the workshop exploring growth, change and exchange.

On 5th July My York Central held a drop-in afternoon / evening workshop to develop a brief for a Hub or Exchange on York central. The event was to develop further two of the My York Central Big Ideas:

6) A community made through exchange: York has enormous wealth, socially, culturally and financially. Use York Central to build a community that can build links between people to address inequalities through sharing and exchange.

7) A hub that catalyses York’s creativity and innovation: Amazing things are happening in York from media, science and technology and heritage. Develop a showcase and learning hub that challenges perceptions and fuels new ideas and networks.

There was some discussion over whether physical facilities should be one building (with opportunities for cross-fertilisation between activities) or a network of smaller buildings within a dense, walkable neighbourhood. Or indeed both with boundaries between the distributed and the centralised approaches being noted as topic for further discussion.

Below are some key ideas to form the beginnings of an open brief for an Exchange on York Central. Download a PDF.

Spaces – for activities and connection

Many people contributed ideas for specific spaces that would enable particular kinds of activity. How can a space be designed for multiple uses and different activities, and what is the right mix of dedicated and multi-use space?

Also, is there a way we can establish meanwhile use on York Central to start to explore these multiple activities? Can we learn from the experience of Spark and similar projects, and avoid having to necessarily get it exactly right first time (which would be a big ask with such a new idea)?

Governance: How to use the power of the city’s big players but in a way that is also community-engaged?

Questions were raised about how such a space should be run and who by, whether it is via community-led governance or by one or more of the city’s big players. More work needs to be done on this but – like the My York Central Big Ideas – there was a sense that money made should be reinvested in the community. This could mean the Exchange renting out co-working and meetings space or community-owned retail. There was a feeling among some that there was a big demand from specific sectors (creative/software industries for example) for clustered space which suited their needs and that this could be an income-generator.

Importance of places that make social connections

The point of living in a city is lots and lots of potential connections – but making these connections can be hard. How can we design a place where you want to spend time, you know something interesting is always going on and that facilitates the connections that otherwise are only serendipitous? How can we create opportunity for meeting and connecting? How can we use mix of use, ease of movement (on foot and bike) and communication of all sorts (via the net, via social and cultural interaction and by physical signposting) to create an urban climate where this process of exchange is actively enabled?

The power of the intergenerational

There was a clear wish to positively address the nature of an intergenerational society, one where people of all ages had something to contribute and where participation in the process of exchange – of skills, time, money etc – wasn’t restricted by simple boundaries of education, work and retirement. Mirroring suggestions for the broader development on York Central, there were suggestions that the Exchange should not just work for all, but should encourage intergenerational links and value them.



Digital… + engineering + heritage + the environment

The Exchange should be interdisciplinary and refuse old binaries of art or science; past or future; digital or analogue and make the post of York’s strengths in media, science, railway engineering and heritage. It should encourage the crossing of boundaries – both for economic benefit and for the simple joy of city life bringing surprises.

There is a challenge in moving beyond simplistic responses in heritage and the environment – brick-arched “railway-ish” buildings and simple peppering with solar panels – and there was a view that making connections between issues was the key to unlocking a richer and more successful form of development, of which this building could be at the heart.

Connect in with – and build on – what is already going on

The Council, CVS and York Timebank already are facilitating a lot of people to connect up with other people and activities – how can all this activity be better signposted to each other and ensure that any new Exchange builds on and compliments this activity rather than reinvents the wheel. It also raised the question of whether ‘volunteering’ and ‘service’ are the same as reciprocal exchange?

We need a further discussion about these different ideas and what they might mean for the York Central Exchange. In pragmatic terms this means more events where professionals working on these schemes and individuals interested in such networks can work together to co-design what it is.

Vision Workshop 12th May – loooking at “how”.

These are notes from our open workshop, elaborating the Big Ideas and looking at next steps which we could collectively take to turn the ideas into reality.

Feedback on the Big Ideas

Homes for living, not investment:-

  • What kind of social contract works best to keep housing for homes forever?
  • Living on York Central doesn’t have to be about ownership – renting could be good.
  • Who will be the developer and what would work best? Homes England? The council?

Exploit the benefits of high density:-

  • Can imagine it feeling similar to behind Kings Cross – businesses at ground level, green spaces but also hardwearing finishes.
  • Site should have facilities for local people – supermarket for example – so no need for a car.

Build in low running costs through high standards:-

  • Is there an assumption it will be there in ten years’ time?” – are we building for the long term?
  • Can we build for true long-term sustainability by building for disassembly and re-use of materials? Considering flexibility, re-assembly?
  • How can we make service charges affordable? Would there be ways of doing this through community involvement?

People, not more cars:-

  • Need to create more connections to the riverside – cycle and foot paths.
  • We need to see pollution statistics to really know what the problem is.
  • Let’s make walking and cycling attractive and safe – the first choice – and make cars “possible but inconvenient” to use. Direct cycle routes are first priority. Let’s invest on things which make cars/parking irrelevant. Best intentions are not enough – need to think *how* we reduce car ownership.
  • Make the new station entrance work for cyclists – secure storage, well lit.
  • York Central should not be used to resolve congestion elsewhere.
  • Can we have multi-storey parking for station and NRM on the outskirts of the development to remove need to drive in?
  • Learn from elsewhere – good and bad. For example look at what went wrong with public transport at Derwenthorpe.

Beyond zoning:-

  • Can we enable people to downsize yet stay accessible?
  • Different layers of building can provide different uses to reduce zoning.
  • How about living units with networking space, meeting space, co-working space included/nearby?
  • How can we integrate York Central with the communities around it?

A community made through exchange:-

  • Can we set up Park & Ride so the profit is shared?
  • How do we build in ways for shared ideas to be developed and succeed?
  • What form of local governance would work best, and can York Central act as a catalyst for this across the city? How can this be open and accountable?
  • Can we achieve cross-party consensus?
  • We need to create a place which is serious about economic activity.

A hub that catalyses York’s creativity and innovation:-

  • How can we create a place to live and work for creatives coming out of York’s universities?
  • Can we create a learning and skills exchange?
  • Gallery / museum space?
  • Small / indie businesses are characteristic of York – we don’t need Google like Kings Cross. How can we take the success of Spark into York Central?
  • Can we also provide affordable space for existing businesses under pressure (rail industry)?

Public spaces that enable people to be collectively creative:-

  • Opportunities presented by the river shouldn’t be missed – recreation on the river provides recreation for others watching it. How about a watersports centre on Leeman Park with upper floor bar and viewing? A new home for York canoe club?
  • Allotments can be a place for sharing and learning
  • Ownership and control of public space must allow / encourage community use. How can it be adaptable to change with the seasons – eg water fountains (summer) and markets (winter)?
  • Can routes become experiences of art / creativity? “Paperchase” or art on the route? Public space should set high standards – quality street furniture etc.

…and how we move forward:-

  • Can we set up a body which allows for inclusion / investment, and can this be done soon? Can this include housing within its remit but also broader issues of economic development and inclusive governance? Can we hold events to inform and engage people?
  • Can we get involved in the discussion about cars and transport on York Central, with the same information on transport modelling which is available to the Partnership and council?
  • Can we broaden the thinking to go beyond York Central, and use the vision developed for York Central to also guide British Sugar site etc?

My York Central: Big Ideas

Whether in the exhibition Post It contributions or in the Festival of York Central events there was a almost unanimous call for affordable housing – as well as a questioning of what affordability might mean and call for a York appropriate definition of ‘affordability’. The Big Idea here is how to make homes forever affordable rather than investment opportunities.

Over 3500 post it notes. Over 30 events. Many conversations. All have fed into the My York Central: Big Ideas. To read the ideas in more detail and trace back their orgins in the Flickr archive read the My York Central Vision.

1) Homes for living, not investment: York Central should address York’s housing inequalities, make a mixed community and build homes not holiday lets.

Homes not Holiday Lets. Our HolidayLets tag on the Flickr site.

2) Exploit the benefits of high density: High density should bring walkable access to shops, gyms, culture, entertainment, public transport and incredible roof top views. Identify these benefits collaboratively and design for them.

Easy access to shops, public transport and entertainment were identified as some of the benefits of high density. Views were also identified as a benefit: protect existing views from Holgate and Leeman Road and create new ones.

3) Build in low running costs through high standards: Link low fuel bills and environmental sustainability through high building standards.

Seeing York Central as innovative was seen as crucial. Planning for sustainability was not seen as a luxury. It can help address affordability by bringing living costs down.

4) People, not more cars: Whether people love and rely on their cars or want to see a car free York, there is one shared point of agreement: that York Central cannot add 2500+ more cars to York’s roads. York Central should provide liveable streets and safe neighbourhoods for children to grow up, keep cars to the periphery, plan for quick and reliable public transport and prioritise direct routes for those on foot, bikes and with mobility aids.

The Cars tag on our Flickr site reveals both strong differences in emphasis on whether cars are inevitable part of York life – but the point of agreement was that another 2500+ cars in that part of York is not a good idea.

5) Beyond zoning: Work is changing. Work and life are often no longer zoned into 9am-5pm so why should our cities be? Plan for creative vibrant urban space by mixing up work, living and cultural buildings and spaces.

How can York Cenrtal create thriving urban spaces by mixing up work, social spaces and homes?

6) A community made through exchange: York has enormous wealth, socially, culturally and financially. Use York Central to build a community that can build links between people to address inequalities through sharing and exchange.

7) A hub that catalyses York’s creativity and innovation: Amazing things are happening in York from media, science and technology and heritage. Develop a showcase and learning hub that challenges perceptions and fuels new ideas and networks.

This has been a real emergent theme from the Festival of York Central events. How might a hub catalyse York’s talent and capacities for creativity and innovation?

8) Public spaces that enable people to be collectively creative: Design indoor and outdoor public space and forms of collaborative governance that enable communities to take ownership and to cultivate lots of different activities.

Questions of how we can create public spaces that enable a real variety of activities and community ownership were raised throughout the events.