Kirkstall Valley Development Trust has won National Lottery money worth £25,000 to work on plans for Abbey Mills.
The combined support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Architectural Heritage Fund will allow the volunteers to work with Bauman Lyons architects and other building professionals on the options for the site.
The Trust wants to create an education centre for sustainable living and a community cafe at the Grade II-listed complex, which is owned by Leeds City Council but has seen little use over the last 12 years.
Adele Rae, community director of the Trust, said: “For 30 years we have worked to open up Kirkstall Valley to community use and establish community facilities.
“HLF backing to develop options for the mill is a great boost to making our campaign a reality.”
The Trust previously failed in a Lottery cash bid to help push the plan forward, but carried on with its campaign after being advised to amend its application.
However the council is undertaking a marketing exercise until Novemvber to see if anyone else is interested in developing the mill.
Chris Hill, development director of the Trust, added: “We are at the start of discussions with the council.
“This support enables us to make our case that the trust is best placed to act as developer of Abbey Mills.”
The trust was formed with the aim of developing both Abbey Mills and the nearby St Anns Mill as primarily education and leisure facilities for local people.