What the BUILD Act could build: The Linen Building in Boise, Idaho

The Linen Building in Boise, ID. Photo by David Hale.

Later this month, the Treefort Music Festival will showcase hundreds of musicians in Boise, ID, and one of the festival’s central venues is a building that not long ago was a contaminated brownfield.

The Linen Building in downtown Boise was a vacant and blighted former laundry facility less than a decade ago, and posed a potential threat to the surrounding area due to environmental contamination. The building was a “brownfield”—a site formerly home to a factory, gas station or other industrial facility left polluted and hazardous, and requiring environmental remediation to be used again.

In 2001 the Linen Building received a Brownfield Assessment Grant to determine the steps and investments required to redevelop the property. After contaminated soil was removed in 2004, Hale Development purchased the property with the hopes of rejuvenating a six-block area of Boise with the Linen Building as its feature project.

Today, the Linen Building is the center of Boise’s newly branded Linen District, which runs on West Grove St. between 13th and 16th streets, just west of the heart of Downtown Boise. The building’s redevelopment has catalyzed the revival of its surrounding area, and the District has become a thriving, chic neighborhood. Successful businesses have opened in close proximity to the Linen Building, attracting a diverse and creative mix of people. Big City Coffee, G Fit Studio (a bike shop), and the Modern Hotel have crafted the Linen District into a destination neighborhood in Boise.

The Linen Building is a shining example of successful brownfields redevelopment. Analysis of the property concluded that every $1 of federal Brownfields funds leveraged more than $48 of total investment in the area. And as developer David Hale explains, the Brownfield Assessment Grant was crucial to the project’s ultimate success:

“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.”

A new bill in Congress could help more communities achieve successes like the Linen Building project. The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act, introduced by Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ), Inhofe (R-OK), Udall (D-NM) and Crapo (R-ID) last week, will make more projects like this possible. The BUILD Act would help communities to redevelop blighted, contaminated and abandoned sites that inhibit economic development and pose risks to public health.

The Linen Building, in Senator Crapo’s home state of Idaho, shows how federal support can help communities overcome otherwise insurmountable barriers to brownfields redevelopment. Smart Growth America would like to thank Senator Crapo for sponsoring the BUILD Act. In doing so, the senator is helping to make lasting, positive change in communities in Idaho and across the country.

The upcoming Treefort Music Festival has cemented the Linen District as a new cultural hub for the Boise, and a cornerstone of the city’s economy. The project is a stellar template for the potential for brownfields redevelopment across Idaho and the country.