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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

Westfield Lofts - Providence, RI
(April 2006)

Programs: EPA Revolving Loan Fund and EPA Targeted Brownfield Assessment
Grantee: Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (contacts)
Summary:  Westfield Lofts is the historic rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of two nineteenth-century brick mill buildings into sixty-nine affordable and market-rate loft apartments.

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In Providence, RI, when the former Rau Fastener Mill Complex ceased operations in the 1990's, things went downhill fast in the neighborhood. The vacant site quickly became an eyesore, with weeds overgrowing the property, and trash-dumping and other illegal activities abounding.

The West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation became involved, both because of their own interests as an abutting property owner and potential developer of the vacant site, and also in reaction to grass-roots concerns by the people of the neighborhood. But the site was a brownfield that had almost certainly been contaminated by chemicals used in the mill's manufacturing process.

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Through vision and persistence, in a ten-year effort, the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation spearheaded the team effort to take this discarded property left to ruin, and see it assessed, cleaned up, and virtually “re-born”.

West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation received a $400,000 subgrant (which does not have to be re-paid) and a $500,000 loan from the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, using money that came from a $3,000,000 EPA Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund grant awarded by EPA in 2003. Also, EPA Brownfields “Targeted Assessment” services worth over $100,000 were contributed to the project.

This is the first phase of a four-phased, multi-use redevelopment of a former brownfield site within the West End of Providence. In this phase alone, there were created 47 market-rate loft apartments, 22 affordable (about $500/month) loft apartments, and a tree grove. In real estate ads, the lofts are touted for their “high ceilings, huge windows, wonderful natural light, exposed brick, on-site management, free parking, free community room, and flexible floor plan”.

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Says one individual: “I worked at Rau Fasteners…I left RI in 1974…It's good to see the old place again…”.

More generally, this project already enhances and supports the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The whole image of the West End of Providence is being positively impacted.

The next phases will include a public park, home ownership center and commercial space in a historic building, new affordable single-family homes, 23 new three-story attached residential townhouses, sidewalks, and lighting.


  • 1890's: Rau Fasteners factory begins operations.

  • 1990's: Rau Fasteners closes. West Elmwood HDC develops interest and plans.

  • 2001: Redevelopment plans firm up.

  • 2003: EPA $3,000,000 RLF grant to RI.

  • December 2005: Grand Opening / ribbon cutting.

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