The building of the councils new headquarters, at West Offices reached it’s “topping” out ceremony earlier this week, celebrating reaching the highest point in the construction project. To mark the ceremony, the symbolic elements of wine, oil, corn, salt and a Yew branch were added to a brick mould to ensure prosperity and success of the development. The mould will be used in the building process for the councils new headquarters.
There is much to celebrate about the new headquarters. Whilst the revival of the West Offices will slash the council’s accommodation costs substantially, (cutting it’s offices down from 16 to four) it is expected that it will save the taxpayers more than £17m over the next 25 years. What’s more is that by choosing this site, it will enable York to keep part of it’s heritage.
The West Offices were once York’s first railway station between 1841 to 1877, and after this period they were used as railway offices. Now, they will be transformed into a state of the art headquarters for York council. The choice for this was not only for economical reasons. The attractive central setting of the site provides a more apt location for the council, but it will also highlight the importance of reviving a historic building. The development team behind the project believe it will inspire similar schemes across the country. York Investors LLP partner Sandy Smith said, “Once completed, the new Headquarters will provide the benchmark for bringing older buildings back into sustainable use.”
Not only were they York’s first railway station, but the history of the site actually dates back to the Roman era. An open weekend earlier this year allowed visitors to view the excavations from an archaeological dig which included a Roman bath house, coins and pottery. In 1887, when the new and current York Station was built, the West Offices became the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway. There was consideration over whether the property should be demolished, but plans were never put into action, and it continued to be used as railway offices.
Considering it’s rich heritage and perfect central location in York, it seems vital to keep such an important building. By using the West Offices the council have set an inspired example of reviving an old building whilst keeping true to its heritage. The developers hope to blend new and old architecture. One feature they are particularly keen to keep is the remains of the original train shed hidden inside the complex, and move it so that it can be seen from the city walls. The reasoning behind this is that the original function of the building, as a railway station will be more readily understood.
Last month, we discussed the aims to keep the white swan in use. It seems a shame that a building with such history should be demolished or replaced. With the council intended plans to regenerate the West Offices, we hope that others will follow suit so that we can keep vital parts of York’s heritage.