GeniUS! Challenge #1 - Hidden Gems

What ways can underutilised CYC assets i.e. equipment, property, buildings and land, be exploited to benefit businesses, the community and the council?


Challenge #1 was launched on January 25th 2012 and open for 3 weeks. Background information on this challenge was provided by Question Champion Dave Atkinson working closely with the Asset Management Team. It was decided that due to the vast open nature of the challenge that some attempt to focus attention on specific problems was required. Detail was provided on an ‘unused’ building (Clementhorpe Maltings) that CYC owned and problems CYC faces managing its assets base and the appropriate information relating to these assets.

What happened

A business case was produced by members of the innovation team and a technological solution provider. This was to outline the costs associated with the production of an asset management system which would enable CYC to leverage best value from its assets, the management of such a system and the ongoing development costs.

Funding avenues have been explored for the progression on the business plan, including use of the Council’s Delivery & Innovation Fund (DIF). An application for funding was made which was turned down.

As a direct result of this challenge however, a potential partnership project has emerged between one of the businesses sharing ideas on the platform and CYC. An innovative new way of linking together local information and providing seamless individualised access to that through a 'tagging' system.  This opportunity is currently being explored.

Original Question and Conversation

What ways can underutilised CYC assets i.e. equipment, property, buildings and land, be exploited to benefit businesses, the community and the Council?

Challenge closes on Wednesday 15th February

Breathing life into Clementhorpe Maltings

There are some real challenges when dealing with the council’s property estate and some buildings and plots of land can lay disused for long periods of time. This can be for a variety of reasons and in some cases there may be no obvious solution to the problem.

This is an opportunity to contribute to the development and rejuvenation of an historic building in the centre of York. Clementhorpe Maltings is a grade II listed building, which is in need of redevelopment, but the constraints around the listing and some features of the building have made this difficult and as a consequence it has been disused for a number of years and it is in need of structural repair.

In terms of the development of proposals for this listed building, there is a blank sheet of paper, so get jamming!!!

Clementhorpe Maltings (see the image above) was built in the 19th Century and was used as a Malt house (in a Malt house or Maltings cereal grain is soaked in water until is sprouts and is then dried to convert it to malt. It is used in the production of Beer, Whisky and food products) until the late 1950s. In the 1960s the building came into the possession of the council and was given a Grade II listed status in 2001.

See this link to the British listed buildings website for more details of the listing.

This has been a difficult building to reuse as it contains the Malting equipment, which is part of the listing, and on the ground floor has a low ceiling (around 5 feet). It has degenerated into a state of disrepair and requires structural attention, but it a well sealed building and is dry inside.

In terms of location it is sited located at St Bridget Court, York (YO23 1AU). This is close to the river and is close to the city centre and the historic city walls.

Getting the best value from our assets

City of York council has in its possession a rich array of buildings, land, highways, vehicles and equipment. Due to the operating hours of the council some of these assets are only utilised for part of the day, week or month. For example, typically a refuse vehicle is in operation for around 8-10 hours, some buildings such as libraries are only open or in use for around 24 hours in a week.

We would like to publicise and advertise our full range of assets with current operational usage (including when, where, etc) and provide a portal to allow community and business visibility into this range and input into extending the use of those assets and this challenge is to propose a solution. We also would like input into how these are presented and what different audiences would appreciate. Initial ideas include an inventory of sights for film companies and allowing the booking of assets for use outside operational hours.


A map based approach to asset presentation (Based upon the Ordnance Survey mapping with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Crown Copyright.  Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. City of York Council, Licence No. 1000 20818)

Our assets at present are stored in several different databases and are accessible to varying degrees and to various levels of detail depending on their subject matter. We’re looking at proposals for integration and presentation and for a portal that will offer information and a range of services that allow the unlocking of the potential of these assets. This will then provide a method for continuously achieved maximum value and use from our assets. We are also looking innovative schemes that would utilise the assets that could be developed through the portal, such as community schemes that will benefit from the use of council owned equipment.

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  • How about using it as a dance hall?

  • Just slipping in after the deadline... but here's a great blog on "gaming the asset transfer process" and how to start the discussion with people who might (and i say that with a million caveats!) be looking to take on a community assets.. 

  • Good evening

    First of all can I say a big thanks to everyone who has contributed to this challenge. It has given us a really good start.

    In terms of how we move forward, we are holding an initial workshop to work through the responses to the challenge in the next couple of weeks. This will enable us to shape ideas and decide what will go through to implementation.

    I will be regularly blogging to keep you informed on progress and we will draw yourselves into the development of the ideas as we move forward. I'll release my next one on Friday.

    The platform will stay open and we still absolutely welcome any more thoughts and suggestions, but for this particular challenge we need to draw a line in the sand in order to ensure we have in place what we require for our short term objectives. We are committed to open innovation and over the next couple of months we will look to develop our community, the platform and the process as we learn from the challenges.

    Please continue to support the other challenges and any feedback on the process and platform so far is much appreciated.

    Kind regards


  • How about setting up a Community Development Investment Fund to bring back the Bonding Warehouse into re-use as a community arts and entertainment centre? Like the one for Unity Hall in Wakefield?

    • There are -as highlighted many examples elsewhere of successful ways of bringing empty / derelict / listed buildings back into beneficial use - building preservation trusts are another model - see the Eagle Building in Sunderland as an example or Richmond station as a cooperative model. Howerver the real challemge here is all council land and property not just the example given.  For me the key is not to see the land and property as 'council' land and property - the legal ownership entity is applied selectively to those assets with higher value.  The principle of 'public' ownership is fine for assetss with a low commercial value eg parks / opens spaces but where there is a commercial return to be made - a rather different management regime applies.  We need to ensure that management of publicly owned land and property is for the public benefit where the council is effectively a 'trustee' - and where all council objectives are ocnsidered in the asset management process including place making.  The changes happening through organisational review should be used to ensure a change in the property management ethos.


      • David, you raise an important point, al the assets should be considered as being held in trust for us the citizens- the difficulty for those outside the system is there is no real sense of undstandng about what the asset management process is, was or will be. I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and one staff member said the was a committee looking at assets, but it had only public sector and voluntary sector reps on it (guessing, owners and users) - a suggestion was made to invite some private sector asset managers into the group to bring in their skills sets, if they were willing. The problem for all buildings and ideas for using buildings is the expense- having had responsibility for industrial and commercial units, developed managed workspaces and so on- it is fine talking about these great ideas but with no no financial envelope- or demand study- I am not sure how far we can go. Perhaps I am being too old fashioned, but in my experience we need to truly understand where there are specific shortages of premises, then see if the private sector can step up before public resources, with all their overheads are brought to bear. Very good to hear your perspective especially on the place making dynamic. I often think of the industrial estate by the river and the Rowntree Park, thinking what a valuable site this would be for higher value activities.
  • It is difficult building an innovation community within the timescales that GeniUS has to meet. Looking back, my first reaction to this Challenge was that we precisely need to improve the way that we do challenges like this here in York. By that, I mean that there must be dozens of community groups and other interested parties that haven't yet heard about this challenge or are aware of the possible availability of Clementhorpe Maltings.

    Given that this challenge is closing, perhaps a solution is to devise an ongoing mechanism by which interested parties could receive similar opportunities. For example, RSS feeds and Twitter account that all community groups in York should subscribe in order to avoid missing any announcements or opportunities like this one. This includes an ongoing GeniUS+ community but also might require a registry of community groups in York (if one doesn't already exist?).

    A quick win, for example, would be to standardise some twitter hashtags used by the Council and other service providers so that communities of interest could evolve around these sorts of topics - e.g. #yorkgenius, #yorksocialcare, #yorkcharities. I'm no Twitter expert and it has a small and specific userbase, but adding some organisation is better than none. 

    Taking the idea wider, I think the Council has a great opportunity to help York to 'coalesce' in digital terms by classifying resources, data sources, conversations, etc in a way that helps the community to integrate it's ideas as opposed to them being fragmented across the web. I've got some ideas here but will hit 'send' now as this challenge is ending shortly! 


    • On community groups - some of this work has been going on, but a real link between community & technology sectors would help it along.. 

      1. So YorkCVS has open communication methods - anything of genuine use to community groups can go out in their newsletter, just email their newsletter
      2. There's a google map of voluntary orgs in York
      3. They also has the most followed charity support org in the UK on twitter- and there have been been social media surgeries in the city since 2009.
      4. There are charity forums on all sorts of topics that run, so if you have something for them get it on the agenda..
      5. There's also a map (connected york) that is supposed to show the relationship between the statutory and third sectors but will need changing when the LSP changes..

      Maybe some of the stuff you're suggesting Anthony (sounds great) could be done through the York digital divide strategy..? (and btw - I used to work at yorkcvs..!)

      • Casey - I saw the great work you have done at YorkCVS. I was wondering if we can scale that and other ideas to be City-wide and beyond the voluntary sector. I will take a look at the Digital Divide strategy.

    • Hi Tony

      For the purposes of the short-term project we are closing this challenge today. The reason is that we need to take the challenges end to end to analyse the process and demonstrate taking a concept/idea from the platform through to implementation. This is part of our commitment to the NESTA process.

      It is the intention that the platform will stay up and discussions can continue to take place on any subject. As we move forward and are able to develop the platform further our intention is to focus more on the development of the communities and the functionality, process and information on the platform.

      The Twitter ideas are good and we'll certainly use approaches like this as we look at how we engage and develop the communities moving forward.

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