The countdown has begun to the opening of the first phase of a £50 million refurbishment of the historic Cromford Mills.
The first phase of the development is set to finish in a year’s time with the opening of a former warehouse known as Building 17.
The building, which has been empty and in disrepair for three decades, is the largest mill on the site and the refurbishment has been funded by £5 million raised by the Arkwright Society, a charity devoted to rescuing industrial and historical buildings in Cromford.
The Monument Trust contributed £400,000 and a further £25,000 came from the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation, which supports work in the arts, to transform the building, which is on English Heritage’s at-risk register.
Sarah McLeod, chief executive of the Arkwright Society, said: “ The restored Building 17 will continue the sense of entrepreneurism, innovation and creativity that characterised Arkwright’s mills.”
The refurbished building will have more than 8,000 sq ft of commercial space, with the upper floors containing commercial units for new and expanding businesses – to be known as the Creative Cluster.
Sarah said: “I’m thrilled that 25 per cent of the floor space has already gone to businesses and I urge others to contact me if they would like to let the remaining space.”
On the ground floor will be a visitor centre telling the life story of industrial revolutionary Richard Arkwright.
This part of the building will be known as the World Heritage Site Gateway and will also provide information to visitors about Cromford Mills and the 15-mile-long World Heritage site.
Cromford Mills attracts about 100,000 visitors each year and Sarah said: “The Gateway has the potential to attract many more visitors to the mills, the village and the Derwent Valley, which would be a fantastic boost to the local economy.
“Derwent Valley is fortunate in having more than one defining image of its World Heritage status. The Gateway may be located at Cromford Mills but it is about the World Heritage Site as a whole. Combined, the mills give a sense of identity and place to the valley.”
Cromford was the first purpose-built industrial village and it boasts the world’s first successful water-powered cotton mill, built in the late 1700s. It was from Cromford that these revolutionary methods spread across the rest of the world.
The Arkwright Society hopes to be able to provide tours inside the building from next spring, to see the fit-out and work going on.
To rent space in Building 17, call the Arkwright Society on 01629 823256.