American Linen Property - Boise
"The American Linen site has been of interest to many developers over the last several years, but the unknown risk associated with potential contamination in the groundwater flowing on to and off of the site has caused the majority of possible buyer's to seek other options." - David Hale, Hale Development
Circa 1950 - American Linen Supply Co.
2004 - Abandoned and blighted
Boise developer David Hale has a dream: a new downtown redevelopment district around 14th and Grove streets in Boise. His vision begins with the old American Linen building that he's turning into a coffee shop, offices, restaurant, and residential space.
For years, environmental concerns at this property hampered the efforts of Boise's Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) to market this former industrial/commercial district for mixed-use redevelopment, including urban residential uses. Developer concerns related to a known historic petroleum release and unknown risks related to historic laundry-related uses. The property sat vacant for years and constituted blight on the urban landscape.
CCDC expressed to DEQ its view that addressing the stigma surrounding this property would act as a catalyst for renewal of the district. Accordingly, in 2004, CCDC asked the Brownfield Program to fund assessment activities at the property to evaluate the ground water quality beneath the site. DEQ agreed to fund the requested assessment.
American Linen occupies the northwest corner of 14th and Grove Streets in downtown Boise. The site takes up one quarter of a city block, which is bisected by an east-west trending alley to the north of the property. The site has three contiguous buildings with separate historical operations ranging from commercial to light industry.
Past owners used the site as a linen supply operation involving commercial laundry with conventional detergents. While the owners did not perform commercial dry cleaning, occasionally they used tetrachloroethylene (perc or PCE) to clean heavily soiled garments. The property once housed underground storage tanks (USTs) holding diesel fuel for delivery trucks and Stoddard solvents for spot-cleaning difficult stains.
In 2001, the USTs were removed along with contaminated soils. A remediation system treated contamination in the soil until its removal in 2004, when DEQ issued a no-further-action letter related to the petroleum issues in the former tank area. Another concern is that ground water samples taken in this area of town have shown varying levels of PCE; the PCE source is unknown. The historic petroleum concerns and area PCE issues prompted CCDC's request for additional assessment activities.
View of American Linen from 14th St., downtown Boise
Site Investigation Process
DEQ contracted to have Maxim Technologies perform a ground water quality investigation upgradient, downgradient, and crossgradient from the property. Field investigation activities included sampling of existing monitoring wells and collection of ground water samples from additional locations using GeoProbe® and the installation and sampling of an upgradient ground water monitoring well. Based on the investigation results, DEQ determined the property was not the source of PCE contamination and provided a no-further-action determination with respect to the property.
Upon receiving the assessment report from DEQ, CCDC shared the results with interested developers and Mr. Hale determined to purchase the property. Mr. Hale commented on the role the Brownfields Program played in his purchase decision:
"Not only did the testing confirm that the on site environmental hazards were at a minimum, but the negative results of off site contamination coming from the property proved to be the necessary piece of information needed in order to complete the due diligence process and pursue the purchase of the building."
Anchored around the American Linen building, Hale plans to redevelop and rejuvenate a six-block area on the western outskirts of downtown that he says has been overlooked. He expects the Linen District's industrial atmosphere to give way to new condominiums, trendy restaurants, and art galleries over the next several years. Hale says he wants the new Linen District to be a Mecca for people accustomed to the unconventional. "I'm going to try and lure people and businesses associated with the creative class," he said. "We're talking artists, musicians, the cool, the hip, the fun."
Hale intends to tear down the largely unusable warehouse portion of the property and redevelop it as temporary downtown parking until CCDC can provide adequate parking for this area of downtown. The main structure will be developed as mixed use office and retail. Once CCDC develops parking in this area, the former warehouse portion of the property will be redeveloped as mixed use residential housing units and retail. "The Linen Building is the landmark building in the district; It will be the anchor of the district," says Hale.
Local businesses that have signed on to relocate or open shops in the new district believe it will attract customers looking for the offbeat. Committed tenants include Donny Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine, a restaurant with a desert roadside cafe atmosphere, an art gallery that will be a haven for local artists and musicians, and Big City Coffee Shop, which will do all its own baking.