Revitalising an important historic High Street

An award of just under half a million pounds founded the StreetLife York project, which aimed to bring heritage and creativity-driven renewal to Coney Street - one of York’s most important historic High Streets.

People interact with a wooden model of a street.

Introduction

STREETLIFE began as a UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF) project led by the University of York in partnership with the City of York CouncilYork Civic Trust, and York Music Venues Network. In December 2021, the team were awarded just under half a million pounds to bring heritage and creativity-driven renewal to Coney Street - one of York’s most important historic High Streets.

In just nine months, the project reframed an ancient but declining highstreet as an experiential destination by delivering over 160 free events and exhibitions; offering skills and training opportunities inspired by research; and engaging with more than 1,700 locals, visitors, 137 businesses, and 40 partner organisations alongside our core collaborators. An independent evaluation by KADA set the project’s economic and social impact at £1.39m. STREETLIFE has been shortlisted for Knowledge Exchange Place-Based initiative of the Year 2023 (AHRC/Praxis Auril awards).

Project Outcomes

STREETLIFE transformed an empty retail unit (29-31 Coney Street) into a welcoming space, hosting both permanent exhibitions, innovative, immersive experiences combined digital and physical engagement from heritage tours and trails wide-ranging musical performances and audio-visual experiences, a fully functioning historic printing press, and collaborative workshops using the histories of York’s ancient high street to think differently about its future uses, including public consultation for major development proposals for the ‘Riverside’ development of the street by The Helmsley Group. 

KADA’s evaluation of the StreetLife represents high value for money, generating £2.20 in social and economic benefits for every £1 spent. Key outcomes identified were:

    The fruitfulness of StreetLife’s interdisciplinarity, which created dynamic connections and content engaging the public in creative and heritage activities.The power of collaborations internally at the University of York and externally, whichstrengthened the delivery, and subsequently the impact, of StreetLife, illustrating how the University, along with local partners, can help to shape places for the public good.The engagement with the public surrounding Coney Street’s past and present, which ignited curiosity, emotions, and a created sense of community.Beneficiaries being highly satisfied with their experience of StreetLife, which was described as engaging, interactive, and informative.The StreetLife Hub providing an important physical presence for the project, demonstrating how creative and heritage activities can benefit the high street and providing a place for the public voice to be heard within large-scale regeneration projects.

Thanks to legacy funding from the University of York, the Hub continued provide incubator space for the StreetLife legacy projects: