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Hayden Flour Mill Opens to Public Use After Renovation

After months of renovation, the Hayden Flour Mill in Tempe is now more eye candy than eyesore. The iconic Mill Avenue building reopened on Tuesday as an events venue, public space, and museum (of sorts).

The $350,000 makeover, which was funded by the Rio Salado Foundation, upgraded the surrounding property with lush landscaping, verdant greenery, an outdoor concrete stage, and plenty of artistic touches.

And while the historic buildings that make up the mill complex -- which dates back to the 1870s -- are still largely vacant, It's a definite step up from the blight-ridden monolith (and dumping ground for empty beer cans) that the mill had become since its closure in 1998.

The renovation comes with hopes from the City of Tempe that a big time developer will step in and transform the place. Just don't hold your breath -- Tempe's been searching for an appropriate suitor for the Hayden Flour Mill for more than decade. (Two previous attempts to turn the place into office/retail space and a boutique hotel were nixed.)

Until then, visitors to the new-and-improved Hayden Mill can relax underneath leafy trees or peek through the rusted mesh that covers its windows to see the vintage machinery that used to transform wheat into flour.

Other remnants of the mill's former life are visible, including markings on the cement walls where Pima corn, oats, and bone meal were stored after being ground. Also viewable is an antique safe, which was installed in the mill in the 1870s by Hall's Safe & Lock Co.

Local landscape architect Bill Tonnesen, who contributed the renovation of the Hayden Mill property, also conceived a towering monolithic L-shaped metal-and-concrete structure near the grass that somewhat resembles an open book.

For those interested in the facility's history, a half-dozen displays are arranged alongside the building detailing its role in Tempe's early days and the life of its original owner Charles Hayden.

Meanwhile, a small field of grass and concrete stage are located on the other end of the property, which will host weddings, festivals, and live entertainment starting this fall. A dedication ceremony is also scheduled for September.

Jodi Richards of Tempe, one of the recent visitors to the mill, was excited to see all the changes.

"It's great what they've done, since we need to hold on to as much of our history as possible," she says. "It's just a great building [and] there's generations of memories associated with it."

She also hopes that more will be done with the mill someday: "A lot more... I would love to be able to go inside and see how it all worked, all the levels, everything."

Unfortunately for Richards and other curious types, city officials don't have any plans to renovate the interior of either the towering grain silos or the smaller milling building (due to the sheer cost involved) and won't offer tours (due to liability concerns).

According to Tempe spokesperson Kris Baxter, the only remaining work that will be done over the summer is of a cosmetic nature, including rehabbing the vintage painting of a flour sack on the north side of the smaller mill building.

City officials are also currently debating, Baxter says, whether or not to add new paint to the structure or remove existing paint -- which is flaking away -- to reveal even older signage from decades past.

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