Cocoa Works, York

Clarion Housing Group

Project Value:





Key Points

279 homes

Former Rowntree Factory

Significant local landmark

Amenity facilities on-site

Historic site

The site has been linked to the manufacture of confectionery and cocoa since the 1890s and is located on a key arterial route into the city. The factory was opened in 1892 and was subsequently expanded and developed over the intervening century. Buildings were designed by Rowntree’s factory architects, W.H. Brown and W.J. Swain, and built by the Rowntree’s building department using an innovative form of reinforced concrete to create the structure. Cocoa Works is the transformation of two of the key significant buildings within the Nestle / Rowntree Factory Conservation Area: the Almond Building which was constructed in 1910 and the Cream Block which was built in 1936 and further extended to the north in 1938 in an art deco style. Both buildings have sat empty since 2008 when they were no longer suitable for modern production.

The Rowntree’s Factory site is of historical significance to York, and this sensitive restoration will bring life back to a building that for years was central to the economy of the city. The nature of the project therefore called for a comprehensive well-measured restoration and approach to providing high quality residential apartments and associated amenity spaces and ensuring that residents feel a part of the ongoing history of the building.



Cocoa Works will provide 279 homes in a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroomed apartments, as well as resident amenity including secure cycle storage space for 280 bikes, 176 vehicular parking spaces, and provision for charging electric cars.

There is a mix of the past and present throughout Cocoa Works: subtly using design features, materials, colours, tiling, fixtures and fittings that are a nod to the Victorian era while also being fit for modern living. Working within the confines of the building, both the internal and external layouts were designed in harmony with its existing condition. Internally the layouts are determined by a number of factors, principally the existing structure, and the existing external window sets. Three new cores have been created.

A new single storey roof extension crowns the building which will house penthouse-style apartments. Whilst this sixth-floor roof extension is a modern addition, the layout is carefully considered and responds to the existing structure below it, resulting in a sympathetic yet contemporary response to the historic building. The use of light bronze aluminium panels enriches the building without been pastiche.

Garden factory

This was York’s famous ‘garden factory’, where open space and education facilities supported the wellbeing of factory workers and their families. As such, Cocoa Works is set within revitalised gardens and communal facilities, one of which will be a new flexible community space inside the Grade II listed Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library.