New Life for Two R.I. Brownfield Sites

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Two buildings sitting on contaminated Brownfield sites are getting a new life. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded two sizable checks to WaterFire Providence ($600,000) and the West Broadway Neighborhood Association ($200,000) to clean up and revitalize the vacant properties.

WaterFire Providence will make its new home on a three-parcel site on Valley Street once occupied by a rubber manufacturer and machine shop. The renovation will include a stormwater management system and other green features. The site will also be used as an incubator for artists and businesses, and to host after-school programs.

During a July 22 presentation outside the brick building, EPA New England administrator Curt Spaulding said the renovation is part of a 20-year project to clean up the land and building along the Woonasquatucket River.

The West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA) is spending its funding to clean land polluted by a former Citgo gas station on the corner of Dexter and Westminster streets. After the clean up of the land, the WBNA will accept offers from developers to rehab or rebuild the site for commercial and/or residential use. “We’re open to so many things,” WBNA executive director Kari Lang said. “We’re looking forward to what the community might put forward.”

The project is one of many revitalization programs in the nonprofit’s 30-year history, which includes playgrounds, community gardens, new streetlights, solar installations, community events and multiple building renovations.

The money was issued from the EPA’s Brownfield Cleanup Fund. Funding for the Brownfield’s cleanup program was authorized in a federal bill sponsored by then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee. At Monday’s ceremony, Chafee remarked that President George W. Bush didn't invite Chafee to the signing ceremony because he voted against the act authorizing the invasion of Iraq.