New vision for Tremont Nail mixes history, modernity
Concert venue, history museum, restaurants, retail, tourist destination...all possible uses for the historic yet ramshackle Tremont Nail Factory District.
Until recently, those ideas seemed fanciful. However, a new push by local planning officials and residents may make those uses a reality.
A redevelopment proposal for the Tremont Nail Factory District drew more than 40 residents – people eager to share ideas on the historic property – to an information session Thursday, March 9 at Town Hall. At stake is the site’s future as planning officials and the public entertained a variety of possibilities at the town-owned, 7.2-acre site.
The Tremont Nail Company, which since 1819 had manufactured cut nails and other products, sold the site to Wareham in 2004. It was purchased using Community Preservation Act funds. The act is a Massachusetts law that allows participating cities and towns to adopt a real estate tax surcharge, supplemented by state matching funds in order to fund community preservation.
Since then, the property has languished, attracting few tenants and drawing ire from residents tired of town funds being used to maintain the eight buildings on the property.
In January, officials announced that MassDevelopment, a state agency with a track record of revamping blighted properties, awarded the town $50,000 to study potential uses for the site. Thursday’s session was an opportunity for the public to weigh in and learn more, said Director of Planning & Community Development Ken Buckland.
Joining Buckland, along with Selectmen, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan and MassDevelopment officials, was Jeremy Lake, a senior associate with Union Studio. Based in Providence, Rhode Island, the firm is tasked with figuring out how to best develop the site. Lake said based on discussions with various stakeholders, such as architects, community leaders and officials, a little bit of everything appears to be the best route.
“Based on what you say here tonight, it appears that we want to promote mixed-use while maintaining the historical integrity,” said Lake.
Based on his firm’s research, Lake laid out a potential vision that would use the large, open spaces inside the former factory complex for a mix of retail, artist space, entertainment and potentially a museum focused on the site’s industrial past.
Lake said the site’s location, at the northern end of the Main Street corridor, could act as an “anchor” for a revitalization of Wareham Village. With a public access boat ramp for canoes and kayaks and picturesque views of the river, he said the natural beauty of the land would also act as a draw. As for funding a clean up of the site and attracting tenants, those issues will be explored at later meetings.
There are some potential challenges to developing the area, Lake said. Its location along the river, in addition to its proximity to wetlands, limit new construction possibilities. However, he said renovations are possible for the three, original buildings on the site. And a corner in the lots northwest corner aren’t subject to those regulations due to it being outside a 200-foot buffer zone.
At the end of his presentation, Lake invited the audience to add their own comments. Everyone who spoke expressed enthusiasm for the direction Union Studio decided to take.
“It seems to be right on target with what people want to do with the place,” said Paul Ciccotelli, adding he had spoken to many people about the project.
Others echoed Ciccotelli’s sentiments, including Wareham Historical Society President Angela Dunham.
“This is a huge piece of Wareham history,” said Dunham. “With support this is moving in a positive direction.”
Looking ahead, Lake said Union Studios will continue to meet with officials and residents over the next two months. In that time, more information will be gathered to figure out what may work best at the site. A second information session will be announced after that round of discussions.
Lake invited residents to follow the project’s progress and leave comments at a website dedicated to the redevelopment process. For more information, visit www.courb.co/tnf.