SPARK:York finally opens its doors

[Image: Imogen Bellamy]

SPARK:York finally opened its doors to the public on 4 May following some delays. The shipping container-based retail site hosts bars, food vendors, shopping opportunities and performance venues and hopes to appeal to all of York’s population, students, families, and the elderly alike. Originally planned to open in April 2017, then in September, the project was postponed multiple times due to budget constraints.

The opening of the night was unfortunately dampened following a small fire breaking out in a pizza oven at approximately 2 am. Despite this, the 24-unit space still provides opportunities for a diverse range of businesses. The retail site contains various new businesses which have previously not been able to afford a retail space. Spark:York’s focus is on providing spaces for new start up businesses. The conditions for renting a slot inside Spark: York include being an independent enterprise and contributing in either a direct or indirect way to the local community. This community spirit is reflected by shop owners them-selves with as many as three different businesses sharing one shipping container.

Rather than being a place for existing companies to expand, the focus was of Spark:York is to either develop those that were often temporary, or those that could not afford a permanent residence due to York’s high retail lease prices. In their mission statement, Spark:York state, “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. Whether it’s a lo-cal 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; we aim to be the Spark that starts their journey.”

They have also delivered on their promise that, “Activities and support will be offered to all, including those with additional needs, low incomes, and those suffering exclusion, isolation and loneliness.” York Nurturing Community has started YNC kitchen, which occupies a shipping container upstairs in the retail complex. Its purpose is to provide those in the local community that cannot necessarily afford food.

There are also more student-appropriate areas, such as the shop Heart of Wax (which is a perfect ex-ample of the spirit Spark:York aims to embody). It is a collaboration be-tween two local vendors, Anna and Phil, who have combined both of their resale businesses to rent a unit. The combination of vintage clothing and vinyl records appeals to York’s student population while also being on brand for Spark’s reputation of sustainability.

The space, located on the corner of Piccadilly, had previously been derelict since the mid 1990s. Spark:York hopes to therefore replicate the success of similar projects such as Pop Brixton which too was built on a brownfield site.

Spark:York’s future is not necessarily permanent. The space will be reviewed in 2020 when development to the area surrounding the site will begin. However, if the spot is successful it may be kept on. With performance spaces that will be open for hire by student groups, cocktail bars and a pop up brewery, Spark:York hopes to be a feature of student life.