What else could you be?
In 2007 these gates to the Bonding Warehouse became photogenic, decorated with text.
The wooden bar across them asked ‘What else could you be?’ – which seemed at first glance like a philosophical enquiry, looking deep into the unfulfilled dreams of the passer-by.
More careful reading of the text around it made it clear that ideas for and comments on the building’s future had been written on the temporary ‘graffiti wall’ of its gate, in response to the news in July of that year that the building had been sold to a developer.
The writers on the gate said ‘No hotel’, ‘No flats’. This statement made in protest now looks more like a prophecy.
Four years on and there are no flats here. No hotel either. Mr Legard, who bought the building in 2007, put it back on the market in June 2011 for much less than he paid for it. His plans to convert it to flats/offices have been abandoned, because of the recession.
The hotel idea was put forward in 2007 by David Hattersley. Perhaps if Mr Hattersley had bought it back in 2007 the Bonding Warehouse would have been all restored and plush by now. Or perhaps not.
This is the gate now, in June 2011. The old lettering is still visible under the garish graffiti tag.
At the height of the booming market, people were fighting over this place, with an amusing argument in the local paper between Mr Hattersley and another local businessman, Marti Dix. Mr Hattersley jeered at Mr Dix’s idea to use the building for retail purposes: ‘It all sounds like a load of old hippy rubbish to me … It would go pop faster than I could say Woodstock.’ And Mr Dix condemned Mr Hattersley’s planned luxury hotel as a ‘yuppie playpen’. (War of words in The Press.)
The building has been empty and unused for years, and might be York’s most well-known disused building/eyesore, if it weren’t for the White Swan, Piccadilly (which has been vacant for decades on end – since the 80s I think – possibly the 1880s).
One of the ideas mentioned in the recent piece in the press is that the Bonding Warehouse could house a museum to York’s chocolate-making heritage. This is a great idea which keeps resurfacing every now and then. There were at one time plans to use Rowntree Wharf for that purpose, before it ended up being converted into flats and offices. But there’s a story in the press suggesting a far less attractive building in King’s Square is to be used as a museum on the history of chocolate (*see update, below), and I don’t suppose we need two of them.
These large industrial buildings make good gallery spaces, and it would make many people happy if the Bonding ended up as an arts/crafts venue. But realistically, there’s probably not enough money in arts and crafts. Though the more I think about this the more it appeals. What we need is someone connected with the visual arts, with a Yorkshire connection, who’s got loads of money and likes Victorian architecture. It would be grand to have a smaller version of the converted Salt’s Mill at Saltaire, full of David Hockney’s paintings of the Yorkshire Wolds. Anyone got his number … ?
The building is now being redeveloped. For more information on recent happenings, and some Bonding Warehouse memorabilia, and history, see all pages tagged ‘Bonding Warehouse’.
Bonding Warehouse in York is repossessed – The Press, 2 June 2011
‘Big opportunity’ in sale of York’s Bonding Warehouse – 7 June 2011
Letter in The Press, from 2007, regarding the history of the building
*Update: The confectionery-related attraction has indeed found a home in King’s Square (where the previously ugly building is now looking quite smart), and is due to open in 2012