What started as a flour mill named Defiance Flour in 1898, is now well on its way to becoming The Mills Precinct; an inner-city living, leisure, and working hub that combines the past with the present.

The old mill on Ruthven street stands as a tribute to Toowoomba’s industrial and innovative past, listed in the Queensland Heritage Register on 26 February 2002. It seemed only fitting that a local family was responsible for redeveloping the space into a community zone, replete with retail and dining precincts, a thriving music events scene, urban offices, and a boutique hotel.

It is a challenging project but one that Mandy Adams, developer of the Mill’s Precinct, says is well worth it.

“We are creating something that we are quite proud of for our future generations,” said Ms Adams.

The mill was owned and run by Patrick and Ellen O’Brien, who had immigrated from Ireland in the 1800’s, and was designed by Toowoomba architect, William Hodgen. The historical importance of the site to Toowoomba can’t be stressed enough. As a local, Mandy understands this importance.

“It is such a privilege to breathe new life into this historically significant property. We have already begun work revealing the beauty of the 100-year old site which enjoys a convenient connection to the CBD and railway parklands beside it,” she said.

“Very shortly there will be quite a dramatic change to the façade on Ruthven St, ushering in the ‘new’ era of the old site.”

Being redeveloped by a local family business ensures a sensitivity in the work on the historical building and its important characteristics, ensuring the space will maintain much of its historical charm.

“It is a local family, with second generation working on site, developing it [The Mills Precinct] instead of an outside government organisation usually recruited for these inner-city redevelopments,” said Ms Adams.

“We’ve kept that flavour that speaks to the past but within clean modern lines to make sure what’s there can be enjoyed for the next 100 years.”

All the renovations will showcase the unique history of the building through the bones of the structure as well as the materials.

“The Blank Space is already operating like a big woolshed with wooden floors; we will continue that. What we’ve done is stabilise what’s already here. We’ve sourced traditional products like brass pipes, brick, exposed corten steel and grand metal. If it can be kept we do it up, if it can’t we work something new into the space to complement what’s already there,” said Ms Adams.

The design will highlight the old and the new, showing a flavour of industry, business and urban living, with the most important aspect being community, with a pedestrian bridge linking to the railway parkland, and the space will feature a community zone.

Mandy sees the new Mills Precinct opening Toowoomba up to a vast array of local and external culture, business and leisure. She also sees the project and a unique opportunity for Toowoomba.

“This is a unique project that starts in the heart of Toowoomba and stretches into the regional area…to create something the Toowoomba community can love and be a part of.”

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