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SECOND CHANCE FOR CITY HOSTEL

AGENDA

On 16 August 2005, a man thrust a baby into the face of Arc Light project director Jeremy Jones, and accused him of wanting to kill his son.

The incident was indicative of the heated reactions that followed an open day for local residents to discuss plans for a controversial new hostel for the homeless in Clifton, York.

Homeless charity Arc Light wanted to build a £3.5 million, 34-bed homeless centre - designed by Leeds-based practice Bauman Lyons - in a former secondary school as a replacement for the organisation's existing, rather Dickensian, city-centre hostel.

Part of the government's £90 million Hostels Capital Improvement Programme, the innovative scheme looked likely to be the first agship project to make it off the ground.

Yet the anti-hostel clamour from concerned locals and, more importantly, from local politicians, was so great that Jones felt he had no choice but to withdraw the application, pulled on 30 September 2005.

Now, almost two years later, Bauman Lyons is about to begin on site with Arc Light's all-new hostel proposals (pictured) - a remarkable turnaround for the project, the charity and the practice.

The new £3.4 million building - the Centre for Change - will also provide accommodation for 34 people, plus a café, training rooms and the charity's offices.

However, unlike the original Shipton Street proposals, this three-storey brick building will not sit among York's Victorian terraces.

Instead it will occupy the north-west corner of the citycentre Union Terrace car park - a design challenge in itself.

The car-park plot was one of more than 30 sites considered by Jones and city planners after the demise of the initial project.

Fundamental to the success of the second attempt was the 'opening up' of the tricky selection process and the securing of cross-party backing for the proposals. As a result, the application passed through the planning process almost unchallenged, except for a bizarre discussion over potential drainage issues.

Jones, a retired rock-band manager, said: 'The day after the open day [for the first scheme] was the only day in seven years of developing Arc Light that I wondered whether we would ever be able to change people's minds.

'The second time around, a public announcement of cross-party political support and a broad and transparent public consultation during the site selection stage went a long way towards minimising the risk of failure.'

Jones is convinced that the design of the new building will accelerate the process of helping the homeless 'to take that next step' towards permanent resettlement. He says: 'The building overlooks the former Bootham Park mental hospital at the rear. This Classical, quasi-Palladian facade hides what is going on behind.

'Our apparently random fenestration [towards the car park] reects that all sorts is going on here. . . The recessed windows which point to the city show we are truly part of the city too.'

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