The oldest surviving factory in Leicester is ready to welcome new businesses following an ambitious, 18-month restoration and redevelopment project.Friars Mill, a previously disused mill complex on the banks of the River Soar, has been brought back into use as modern workspaces by Leicester City Council.
Work on the painstaking conservation of the 18th century mill complex – which includes Leicester oldest surviving factory building – is complete, and the historic mill is now opening its doors to prospective tenants.
The Chamber, which won the contract to manage the 15 new workspaces, took possession of the site on 11 March.
To mark the handover, businesses that have already expressed an interest in Friars Mill were given a special sneak peek of the historic buildings.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “The redevelopment of Friars Mill has been a challenging journey. The main Donsithorpe factory was nearly lost to fire, and the other buildings on the site were largely derelict after years of neglect.
“I am very proud that we were able to bring these buildings back into a meaningful and fitting use.
The contractors have done a wonderful job. This has been a painstaking restoration project. It has helped preserve a fascinating chapter in the city’s industrial heritage by creating really attractive, modern workspaces where local business can grow and build a prosperous future.”
“Friars Mill will be a beacon for regeneration in the Waterside area, and I am delighted that we have the Chamber on board.”
The Chamber, which will move into new offices at Friars Mill later this month, is already attracting strong interest in the new workspaces. Agreement in principle has been reached on six of the units, with an official announcement about new tenants expected in the coming weeks.
Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles said: “Friars Mill is an excellent addition to the Chamber’s managed workspace portfolio and we aim to replicate the success of the Leicester Food Park, which we have managed on behalf of the council since November 2014.
“We’ve already received a high level of interest in the site from businesses. It is a very prestigious site in a wonderful location, which combines elements of the city’s industrial heritage with cutting-edge, modern design to create a truly unique place to do business.
“Leicester is famed for its ability to innovate and keep its businesses at the front of the pack and we hope to continue that industrial evolution here at Friars Mill.”
The £7.1million redevelopment of Friars Mill was part-funded by an award of up to £3.9milllion from the European Regional Development Fund.
It provides 25,000sqft of modern, managed workspace, with units ranging from 600sqft to 1,950sqft, along with meeting rooms, breakout spaces and a reception area.
The city council worked with specialist building conservation contractors William Anelay Ltd – Britain’s oldest building company – to restore and redevelop the once derelict buildings.
The contractors have also won the contract to build two new office units on the Friars Mill site. Work is due to begin by early April.