A TEMPORARY venture that has transformed a disused part of York city centre hoping to spark the interest of Press Business Award judges.

Spark:York opened in May 2018 and is in place until June 2020. It has brought life to a disused site on Piccadilly which had been neglected and unloved for many years, and now houses a mix of food, drink and retail businesses in shipping containers.

As a community interest company, the venture is owned by the community, and through its commitment to giving back to the community during the lifetime of the project, is entering the Socially Responsible Business of the Year category.

Jo Little, head of marketing at Spark:York, explained: “Spark offers affordable business units to small local businesses who otherwise could not afford to trade in York.

“In choosing tenants for the site, they had to prove in their business plan that they had a ‘social purpose’ – in other words that they intended to give something back to society

“The Spark management team works with their traders to assist them in fulfilling their social purposes, for example, working with United Response to encourage traders to consider employing people with additional needs where possible.”

Spark works with the wider community, offering free or pay-as-you feel events and activities through their community cafe York Nurturing Community (YNC).

Site-wide initiatives have include hosting a group of school children from Chernobyl where all the Spark traders got involved in organising fun activities throughout the day including dressing up, making flower mandalas, haircuts for the children, making pizzas and a treasure hunt.

Spark has also hosted visiting students from a Hong Kong University, local schools taking part in the Santander ‘Fiver’ challenge, and children from NCS raising money for York Teaching Hospital Charity.

Ms Little added: “The very fabric of Spark is based on sustainable practices.

“Shipping containers are the ultimate recycled building material and can be quickly removed at the end of the project, leaving minimal signs they were ever there.

“During the building process, offcuts from windows and doors being cut in the containers were kept and re-purposed into the planters which now decorate the site.

“None of the waste produced at Spark:York is sent to landfill, thanks to our partnership with Yorwaste.

“We achieved zero to landfill

status just two months after opening.”

Yorwaste Account Manager Kate Anderson said: “We are delighted to have been able to help Spark:York achieve zero waste to landfill.

“It is particularly impressive given they only opened in May this year. It demonstrates the commitment of the businesses to protecting the environment, and that is to be applauded.”