1326 Westminster Street

Purchased by WBNA in 2012, the former L & L Service Station was to be renovated and used by a local business, but the EPA found high levels of toxic substances at the site, requiring its demolition and cleanup. WBNA will soon be seeking both short and long term positive uses for this corner property that is a gateway to our iconic park and Armory.

 

BACKGROUND

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 in our neighborhood that has immense place-making potential.

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, was well-known in the neighborhood, did car repairs for many neighbors, grew up on Theresa Court off of Willow Street and went to Willow Street Elementary School. When Bill was ready to retire, he listed the property for sale.

Recognizing the importance of this corner site and the building on it, WBNA purchased the property so that it could be redeveloped into a place that would both contribute positively to the neighborhood and connect Westminster Street to Dexter Training Ground, the west side's largest and most used park 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 put out a Request for Proposals for the property's imminent re-use and to attract an end user that would transform this iconic 1950s gas station into a space such as a restaurant, retail store, offices for a nonprofit organization, or other business 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.

Meanwhile the EPA's site testing revealed that the extent of contamination 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, yet is grateful that the EPA's Emergency Response and Removal Program stepped in to manage remediation and demolition.

As of early October 2016, cleanup has begun, with removal of asbestos materials occurring first, followed by a "stepwise approach" to demolition in mid October 2016 that employs removal and disposal of hazardous materials in stages. During the demolition process, the EPA monitors air quality of the surrounding community to ensure that dust and contaminants of concern do not escape the property. The demolition will be completed by the end of 2016.

 

NEXT STEPS

While the building could not be saved, this corner lot at Westminster and Dexter Streets remains a critical "gateway" to the Dexter Training Ground and Cranston Street Armory – the heart of the Broadway Armory Historic District.

The WBNA is committed to finding both a short term and a long term positive use for this quarter acre property. As EPA remediation of the site wraps up, WBNA looks forward to finding a future use of 1326 Westminster Street that will benefit our neighborhood and maximize the potential of this property's special location. In the meantime, WBNA plans to do landscaping on the site with the possible addition of a barrier, benches and trees.

 

Goals

  • 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