The refurbished Conway Mill on the Falls Road was officially opened today (Thursday 25th November).
The project to restore Conway Mill was aimed at promoting social/economic regeneration, job creation and business development while preserving the heritage of one of the most significant architectural landmarks in West Belfast.
Work to refurbish the B2 listed building included structural repairs, building conservation and the internal refurbishment of the two mill blocks. The project has created 16 new workspaces and enterprise units for new and expanding businesses in the area. The building now also houses 20 new artist studios and an atrium space.
The Department for Social Development contributed over £2.5million to the refurbishment project. Financial support was also provided by the International Fund for Ireland, Peace II through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Alex Attwood said: “The determination of today’s Lower Falls community to see the refurbishment of Conway Mill through to its completion stands as a testament to a past generation of women and young children who worked here in difficult and harsh conditions. What we see here today is the result of dedication by local people to see this building restored as the heart of the area and another step on the road to new hope for the future of West Belfast. This iconic building will act as a flagship for regeneration in the Greater Falls Area with the expectation of over 100 jobs to be created within four years.
“This work and today’s opening proves the need and the value of neighbourhood renewal. Funding plans were developed and agreed across government, across the community and across a range of partners. I want to target resources in a way which has maximum impact. I want to work with communities to achieve that.”
Denis Rooney CBE, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland said: "The International Fund for Ireland, through one of its special programmes which aims to support and regenerate disadvantaged areas, made a very significant investment (£970,000) in the Conway Mill Regeneration Project.
“This substantial regeneration project has created a genuinely shared space in this truly impressive building yet still managed to preserve the original character of Conway Mill. A key focus for the Fund is creating conditions where businesses and entrepreneurship can flourish. Already I believe creative industries, community organizations and businesses are resident here and I have no doubt that Conway Mill will be instrumental in bringing about economic and social change for everyone in the surrounding area. I offer my most sincere congratulations to all those involved in bringing this project to fruition.”
Jim Neeson, Chairperson for Conway Mill Preservation Trust Ltd said: “The refurbishment of Conway Mill is an important milestone, not just in its long history but also for the community in West Belfast. These much needed updated facilities offer attractive opportunities for new and existing businesses both locally and throughout the wider Belfast area. The tenants which now occupy Conway Mill represent the diversity of social enterprise, community business and creative industries which have sustained Conway Mill throughout the past 30 years."
Paul Mullan, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, said: “The restoration of Conway Mill is a hugely important development for West Belfast. It is wonderful to be here today to see this historic building returned to its former glory, and its place at the heart of the community. The Mill is a fantastic resource which has brought a range of benefits to the local community through the creation of employment opportunities, cultural facilities and educational and enterprise initiatives. The Mill will continue to play a key role in the social and economic regeneration of the wider area, and we are delighted to be involved in this project which has secured its future.”
Paul Brush, Head of European Programmes at DETI, said: "I am delighted that the Department has been able to provide Peace II financial assistance towards the refurbishment of Conway Mill. The development provides unique and inspiring workspace facilities for new and expanding businesses, with the aim of creating at least 45 new jobs. The establishment of new businesses at the development, and the jobs they will create, will be a welcome economic boost for the area."
Ian Lush Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF), said: ‘’I am delighted to see this important project reaching completion. With a small grant, and large, low-interest loan, we have been supporting the Trust's efforts to restore the buildings for some years, and given the considerable challenges they have faced and overcome, the Trust is to be warmly congratulated on its achievement. The AHF funds projects throughout the UK and also manages the Northern Ireland Environment Agency's Acquisition Grant Fund for buildings at risk.’’
Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The Arts Council has been delighted to support the Conway Mill refurbishment which will make a significant contribution to the social and economic development of the area. Thanks to this funding, residents, community groups and businesses in West Belfast have a vibrant new space to enjoy, which will also generate substantial income for the local economy.”
Local priest and long term supporter of the project, Father Des Wilson performed the official opening of the new facility. He said: “I have always thought of the revitalisation of Conway Mill as a symbol of the revitalisation of West Belfast and therefore of the whole city.” Click here to download press release