£5m Conway Mill refurbishment
Conway Mill is set for a £5.1 million refurbishment, Minister Margaret Ritchie announced last week.
The regeneration will allow the mill to be fully used as an education and employment centre while also preserving the historic nature of the mill buildings, the Social Development Minister announced at the west Belfast building last Wednesday.
Minister Ritchie said: “Economic development is a key element of any successful regeneration programme. The refurbished Conway Mill will provide an enhanced facility that will foster and encourage social and economic opportunities for the local community.”
The minister said the refurbishment, when completed in spring 2010, will act as a catalyst for other economic development initiatives and investment. The project also aims to create over 100 jobs within four years of refurbishment, giving a “much needed boost to this area of the city”, she said.
“It will also give local people the confidence to implement their business ideas and to contribute to the regeneration of west Belfast and will provide ongoing employment and education opportunities,” added Minister Ritchie.
The building — which from the 1840s until 1976 was one of the principal linen mills in Belfast — was bought in 1982 by Conway Community Enterprises to ensure the importance of the linen industry would not be forgotten, as well as providing a space to economically revitalise the area.
The Department for Social Development has contributed £1.7m through its Neighbourhood Renewal initiative to help facilitate the project. Other funders include the International Fund for Ireland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Integrated Development Fund, Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Denis Rooney, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “Everyone involved with the project is to be congratulated. A key focus for the Fund is creating conditions where businesses and entrepreneurship can flourish.”
Lorraine McDowell, director of operations for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The Arts Council is funding a suite of artists’ studios, a workshop and gallery within this exciting mill development, thus expanding the spaces and places where people can participate in art.
“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,” she added.
Jim Neeson, chairman of Conway Mill Preservation Trust, said: “This marks a very important milestone for us and for the community we serve.
“The activities of the mill have encouraged and supported community involvement at all levels, developed an education and enterprise focus and supported arts and culture where possible. This regeneration project will enable all floor space within the Mill to be used and will create jobs for local people, and supplier opportunities.”