The International Yacht Restoration School celebrated a milestone last week with the official opening of the newly restored 1831 Aquidneck Mill building.
This mill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was unused for decades, but the $7.5 million restoration transformed what was once an abandoned mill into a vital cornerstone of the Lower Thames Street neighborhood, the IYRS said.
The building now houses expansion space for IYRS, a maritime library, and a visitor center - along with lease space for 12 companies that have brought businesses and jobs to the Newport waterfront.
"In these times, we all have a need for community, a need to feel connected and a need for a little joy," IYRS president Terry Nathan said at the opening. "The value of collaboration is our winning model here at the school. I believe strongly it will take IYRS well beyond today's events."
The visitor center will draw thousands to the neighborhood, IYRS estimates, and businesses in the mill will account for nearly 40 jobs.
The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, the United Way and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission helped the school cultivate its programs and restoration projects.
Organizations that contributed funding to the mill include the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, 1772 Foundation, Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust, U.S. Small Business Administration, Prince Charitable Trusts, Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, and The Champlin Foundations.
The Aquidneck Mill was originally built for textile manufacturing and is now the only mill in Newport returned back to its working roots, according to the IYRS.