Restoration work on a landmark building in west Belfast expected to attract social and economic opportunities to the area has been announced.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie launched the £5.1m project during a visit to Conway Mill.
The Department for Social Development is giving £1.7m to the refurbishment under its Neighbourhood Renewal initiative, saying the regeneration would ensure the mill could be fully used for education and employment, while preserving the historic nature of buildings, constructed in 1842 and 1900 by James Kennedy.
The Minister said the refurbished mill would bring social and economic opportunities to west Belfast.
She added: “Upon completion in spring 2010, this new facility will act as a catalyst for other economic development initiatives and investment.
“The project will also aim to create over 100 jobs within four years of refurbishment, giving a much needed boost to this area of the city. It will also give local people the confidence to implement their business ideas.”
Funding has also come from the International Fund for Ireland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Integrated Development Fund, Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Denis Rooney, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said it was delighted to give £970,849 to the regeneration, which he said reflected the values of the fund.
“A key focus for the fund is creating conditions where businesses and entrepreneurship can flourish. Ultimately, the work the fund is investing in now is part of our commitment to building a sustainable and lasting peace for everyone in our society.”
The development includes artists’ studios, a workshop, and a gallery funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Lorraine McDowell, Director of Operations, said: “This provision of high quality professional arts infrastructure not only supports our talented local artists, but also contributes to the economic and social development of this area.”