A community group aiming to transform the fortunes of the Harryville area of Ballymena has raised more than £40,000 since launching a £120,000 community share offer on June 30.
In just one month, Raglan Community Development Renovation Society has raised a third of the funds it is seeking for the first phase of the project to turn the former Raglan Bar in Harryville into a thriving business and cultural centre.
Secretary of the society, William Millar said there had been a great response to the community share launch and he was confident of raising the £120,000 by the closing date on Tuesday, September 29.
He said: “In the first few weeks we have raised well over £40,000. It’s a tremendous start for a project aimed at creating a thriving shared space with business units, exhibition areas and educational services.”
By issuing Community Shares, members of the community can buy a stake in the future of this development. The share offer has been launched with the help of the Building Change Trust’s Community Shares Ready! Programme delivered by Co-operative Alternatives, an organisation set up in Northern Ireland to promote and raise awareness of co-operatives and community benefit societies.
Tiziana O’Hara from Co-operative Alternatives said: “The reaction by the public has been so positive towards this opportunity to become involved with this project. Shareholders not only hold a financial stake in the development but become members of the Raglan co-operative giving them the chance to have a voice and a vote on the future of this important building.”
The demand for shares has come from a mix of individuals, community groups and local businesses with applications ranging from £100 to £1,000.
Mr Millar added: “We would like to renew our appeal for people to get involved and help change the face of Harryville.”
The site has already undergone some restoration and the building is currently occupied by Slemish n tha Braid Credit Union. The plan is to develop the part not used by the credit union to transform it into a multi-purpose business/community hub used by residents, local community organisations and businesses.
When completed, the centre will contain up to nine new business units, a space for community projects and groups and an exhibition area connecting Harryville to its history.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has agreed a financial package to support the project and this will be used to leverage more capital funding to complete the £412,000 first phase of the project.
Investors can buy as little as £100 and up to a maximum of £20,000 worth of shares to become part of this exciting community owned enterprise. The first phase will consist of 843 square feet of workspace incorporating six business units and a community space. The community co-operative will be run on a one member one vote basis.
The closing date for share applications is Tuesday, September 29. To register interest telephone 07391611201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org