1326 Westminster Street
WBNA purchased the former L & L Service Station in 2012 with the intent that it would be renovated and repurposed, but the EPA found high levels of toxic substances at the site, requiring demolition and cleanup. After remediation was completed in 2017, WBNA sold this important gateway property to Community MusicWorks, a local nonprofit that has served our neighborhood for over 20 years.
West Broadway Neighborhood Association purchased the former L & L Gas and Service at 1326 Westminster Street in November 2012 with the intent to preserve and repurpose a historic gas station building, remediate the site, and revitalize an important corner property that has great place-making potential in our neighborhood.
The existing structure was built in 1956 as a fueling and service station, and had numerous owners for five and half decades. Its last and longtime owner, Bill Laorenza, grew up on Theresa Court and was well-known in the community. After years of being the go-to mechanic for many neighbors, Bill retired, and listed the property for sale.
Recognizing the importance of this corner site and the building on it, WBNA purchased 1326 Westminster so that it could be redeveloped into a place that would contribute positively to the neighborhood and connect Westminster Street to Dexter Training Ground, located diagonally across from it.
In 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency awarded WBNA a $200,000 EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant. A few months later, WBNA optimistically announced a Request for Proposals for the property's re-use and to attract an end user that would transform this iconic 1950s gas station into a space such as a restaurant, offices for a nonprofit organization, or retail space that would serve the west side community.
Several excellent proposals were submitted by local businesses and nonprofits in response to the RFP. WBNA's Community Development Committee formed a subcommittee that included neighbor stakeholders, abutters and architects. A thoughtful neighbor-involved process ensued to review the proposals, and Sin Bakery was chosen as 1326's next tenant.
Soon after the RFP process was finished, however, EPA findings of high amounts of toxic substances put a stop to all plans for re-use of the building. Happily, this unfortunate turn of events did not stop Sin Bakery from finding a new home on the west side, as it opened its doors at nearby 1413 Westminster Street a few years later.
The EPA's site testing revealed that the extent of contamination at 1326 Westminster Street was more significant than anticipated and would require additional assessment. Further investigation by the EPA in October 2015 identified the following hazards (from EPA Site Summary for L & L Gas and Service):
EPA...found elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) present in the building materials, as well as surface soils on site. PCBs are hazardous substances that present a threat to human health and the environment.
With over 60 percent of the site contaminated, WBNA regretfully determined that the existing building would need to be demolished.
The EPA's Emergency Response and Removal Program stepped in to manage remediation and demolition and began cleanup in the fall of 2016 with removal of asbestos materials occurring first, followed by a "stepwise approach" to demolition that employed removal and disposal of hazardous materials in stages.
Because of the careful step-by-step nature of the demolition process, WBNA and architecture-loving nerd types got a peek at what this mid-century-modern building originally looked like (see photos above). As demo equipment peeled away layers of brick and cinderblock from the former gas and service station, the original plate glass facade appeared with pieces of glass still found in their frames.
Demolition of the service station building was completed in late 2016, followed by removal and drainage of an underground gas tank.
$200,000 EPA Brownfields Remediation Grant
$500,000 EPA Emergency Response and Removal Program
$50,000 RIDEM Environmental Analysis Phase 1 and Phase 2 (granted services)
The last stage of the cleanup process – soil remediation – was completed in fall of 2017, and included removing all asphalt as well as one foot of soil from the entire site, replacing it with clean fill, and topping the surface with gravel. At the end of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) approved close out reports, which officially completed the environmental clean-up of this site.
1326 Westminster was literally a clean slate, and WBNA began to explore possibilities for its future.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
While the building could not be saved, this corner lot at Westminster and Dexter Streets remained a critical "gateway" to Dexter Training Ground and the Cranston Street Armory, and WBNA once again committed itself to finding a future use for 1326 Westminster Street that would benefit our neighborhood and maximize the potential of this property's special location.
As site remediation wrapped up, WBNA revisited the proposals submitted during WBNA's RFP process four years before. Not surprisingly, many of these businesses had moved on to find other locations for their ventures, including Sin, North Restaurant, and White Buffalo. But one had not. Community MusicWorks (CMW) was still interested.
Another party was interested, as well. Mike Lemoi, the developer of 1292 Westminster Street, approached the WBNA in early 2017 and presented his plans before our Board of Directors. Lemoi's proposal showed a wider yet shorter, four-story version of his current plans for residential apartments with ground floor retail space that would span the two properties and save the existing four storefronts of 1292 Westminster Street.
While Lemoi's renderings presented at that time were compelling, the Board ultimately decided that Community MusicWorks' vision for the site was a better fit with WBNA's project goals.
In mid-December of 2017, WBNA sold 1326 Westminster to CMW, a nonprofit that has people and place at the core of its mission. CMW has a long-standing collaborative relationship with WBNA and a known track record of commitment to the needs of our neighborhood. WBNA is confident that CMW will steward the redevelopment of this property with community in mind, and looks forward to the site's bright future.
CMW is currently in process of doing pre-development work for the property which can take several years to complete. WBNA will remain involved in the site's future plans and, as a condition of sale, will review CMW's conceptual design of the proposed structure and landscaping at its Community Development Committee (CDC) when plans become available.
Facilitate an environmental cleanup of the site to remove hazardous materials
Return the property to contributing use for a local business or nonprofit organization
Best utilize the site's location at the corner of Dexter and Westminster to serve as a "gateway" to our neighborhood's largest and most used park