Planting Seeds of Change: Officials Celebrate $500,000 Federal Grant to Help Urban Renewal Blossom at What Cheer Flower Farm

Every garden has a story and reflects the type of care it gets.

Founded in 2017, What Cheer Flower Farm is a flourishing nonprofit that grows, rescues, and gives away over 100,000 cut flowers annually to hospitals, hospices, food pantries, senior services, recovery centers, shelters, and people who could use a lift. Beyond botanical gifts, the organization also offers a variety of community-driven educational, cultural, mentorship, and job training programs.

After planting seeds of urban renewal and cultivating community growth, What Cheer Flower Farm in Olneyville received a $500,000 federal grant to remediate and redevelop a 2.7 acre site in Providence that used to be home to the Colonial Knife factory, but has sat vacant for years. The venture will bring more local blooms and more joy to those in need.

Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Seth Magaziner, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, and officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined What Cheer Flower Farm board members and dedicated volunteers and community partners to celebrate a $500,000 Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (MARC) Grant to help What Cheer Flower Farm with revitalization efforts to clean up the formerly vacant site of a knife manufacturing plant and turn it from an eye sore into a vibrant, sustainable community asset.

Located along Magnolia Avenue, the former factory site was found to be contaminated with metals, chlorinated volatile organic compounds, petroleum, and inorganic contaminants. As a result of this contamination, the property’s soil does not allow for flowers to be grown in the ground. Instead, flower beds with special soil have been built atop a geotextile surface. The property also houses special areas where sage and eucalyptus trees can be grown in a protected environment.

Earlier this year, What Cheer Flower Farm began the demolition of vacant buildings on its Olneyville property, as part of its environmental remediation project that will transform the space into a headquarters for Rhode Island’s first nonprofit flower farm and job training site.

The $500,000 Brownfields Cleanup Grant, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Senators Reed and Whitehouse helped pass, will help expedite the cleanup and support community outreach activities. The law, which President Biden signed on November 15, 2021, included a historic $1.5 billion boost to the Brownfields program.

“I commend the dedicated volunteers and staff of What Cheer Flower Farm for planting seeds of change and I am pleased to help deliver this $500,000 federal grant to help urban renewal blossom here in Olneyville. This federal brownfields funding will accelerate budding progress at What Cheer Flower Farm and transform the derelict former Colonial Knife site into a thriving, inviting urban flower farm and community asset,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed. “Rhode Island has had a great deal of brownfields successes and partnerships. This is another good example of federal funding supporting community-driven revitalization In a way that helps deliver economic gains and environmental benefits.”

“The EPA’s Brownfields program continues to make important investments in communities across the Ocean State. With this federal funding for environmental remediation, What Cheer Flower Farm in Olneyville will grow its mission of delivering free flowers to Rhode Islanders in need of a smile, and help stimulate the local economy,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

“What Cheer Flower Farm brings so much joy to our community by growing flowers to give to hospitals, senior centers and more,” said U.S. Congressman Seth Magaziner. “I am proud to announce this federal funding that will help What Cheer Flower Farm continue cleaning up this land and growing its beautiful flowers in a safe environment.”

“Congratulations to the What Cheer Flower Farm for earning a $500,000 Brownfields cleanup grant this year,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this grant will be used to cleanup the site of an abandoned factory, which will help the flower farm expand operations and services in an underserved part of the City of Providence, providing flowers, greenspace and training to those who need it most.”

According to the EPA, every dollar invested in Brownfields cleanup has been shown to yield $20.43 in economic development benefits, including the creation of jobs cleaning up the sites, use of remediated sites for development, and increased property values in surrounding areas.




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