KEYS to the historic Guildhall have been officially handed over to the University of York following its once-in-a-generation refurbishment.

City of York Council marked the successful completion of the works which began in September 2019 by presenting the keys to the building's new leaseholder.

York Press:

A black-tie dinner reception held at the Guildhall on Monday also celebrated the launch of the newly-renovated building, with York's civic party, leading business figures and partners involved in the works among the guests.

York Press:

The £21.7m construction has seen the building stabilised through major underpinning, protected from water damage and given a new lease of life at the heart of the city’s social, business and civic life.

The university signed a 15-year lease in August 2021, giving the historic building a new purpose as a centre for enterprise.

The building is leased to York Science Park (YSPL), a subsidiary of the university which specialises in operating business facilities and offers support for entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to grow.

Originally constructed as a meeting place for York’s historic guilds, the Guildhall has played host to many important figures from history, from King Richard III in 1483, to Prince Albert in 1850.


Following the discovery of significant structural problems with the riverside tower, City of York Council decided to undertake the ambitious restoration of the Guildhall complex in a bid to bring it back into use. 

The University of York will operate the Guildhall as a venue for business to start and flourish as well as providing a unique conference and events venue, and public café.

During the launch celebration, The Lord Mayor of York presented certificates to local people who made an invaluable contribution during the city’s response to the pandemic, going the extra mile to care and support for the residents of York during a time of unprecedented crisis.  

The Guildhall complex contains a collection of Grade I, II* and II listed buildings built around the 15th century hall and riverside meeting room, and has been a seat of civic governance in York since the 1200s.

The redevelopment follows a long period where only reactive repairs were carried out; and represents the most significant investment since extensive rebuilding works after the bombing in 1942 that caused serious damage.

The redevelopment has seen modern elements incorporated around the historic core of the Guildhall.

It is now home to offices, shared business space and meeting rooms, which will also be available for community use, a café, a new riverside restaurant, and new external areas with better access for local residents.

Councillor Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance and performance, said: “The investment in the Guildhall manifests our city’s ambitions and aspirations in preserving history while at the same time embracing the future.

"This project has taken one of the most important heritage buildings in the UK, one of York’s best-loved historic sites, and has - through excellent design, thoughtful investment and very high quality construction - built a new chapter in York’s future; innovative, environmentally progressive and accessible to all.

"It’s a building and a legacy that York can be proud of for many years to come.”

Professor Kiran Trehan, pro-vice-chancellor for partnerships and engagement, said: “Our involvement in this new chapter for the restored Guildhall will allow the University to offer more support and space to local businesses, start-ups, charities and community networks than ever before.

"It is a fantastic opportunity to drive enterprise, innovation, collaboration and inclusive growth in our City.

"As a University for Public Good, we are embracing this opportunity to strengthen links with our partners in York and beyond to bring about positive change for our society.”

Rob Henderson, project manager at VINCI Construction UK, said: “We hope that the people of York and visitors to the city can take great pride in the renewed Guildhall.

"Through the combined hard work and commitment of VINCI staff, our supply partners, the City of York Council and all the project partners involved throughout this interesting and challenging regeneration project, we believe we’ve helped create a very positive legacy for the city.”

Helen Simpson, chair of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is a significant project which will support economic growth in York and North Yorkshire and shows what can be achieved when we all work together for the good of the region.

"The redeveloped Guildhall provides a high quality, city centre space for businesses to operate in and brings new life to an important historic building.

"We’ve seen elsewhere how successful these hubs for businesses can be in accelerating economic opportunities, and we’re sure this site will also flourish.”

The Guildhall project is using green technology to heat the building, reducing the environmental impact.

The facility has the potential to create more than 200 jobs, offers improved public access to the building and promises an estimated £100m boost to the city’s economy over the next five years.

Funding for the £21.7m work was provided by York council, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.