A former public house destroyed by an IRA bomb more than 40 years ago is being transformed into a £1million community hub that will bring jobs and hope to one of Ballymena’s most deprived areas.
Raglan Community Development Renovation Society today launched a £120,000 community share offer to begin the first phase of a project that will turn the former Raglan Bar in Harryville into a thriving business and cultural centre.
Secretary of the society, William Millar said this offer gave the people of Harryville the chance to become shareholders and have a stake in a project that will regenerate an area that has suffered years of neglect and decline.
He said: “This project is about using people power to restore an area that has not benefited from the peace dividend. We are creating a shared space with business units, exhibition areas and educational services.”
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 provisionally 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.
The Mayor, Councillor Paul Reid said: “Council are pleased to be supporting this project. One of the five priorities in Council’s Corporate Plan is building stronger, safe and healthy communities and we believe that this project will help to do this in this area.
“We commend Raglan Community Development and Renovation Society for their vision in bringing a derelict building back into use in the heart of this community for the benefit of this community. We look forward to working with them to realise that vision.”
The share offer has been launched with the help of the Building Change Trust’s Community Shares Ready! Programme run 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 of Co-operative Alternatives said that the closure of major employees such as JTI and Michelin in Ballymena and the resulting loss of jobs had created a desire by the community to seize control of its future and provide hope for the next generation.
“This exciting project offers the chance to invest in something that will have massive benefits not only for residents but will lead the way in Northern Ireland by showing how a co-operative of local people can take control of our community’s future.
“Raglan Community Development Renovation Society has had the vision to encourage a spirit of enterprise and bring jobs to this area. This is a community owned co-op that will work for the benefit of all. We want to see people take ownership and invest in the future of Harryville,” she added.
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