New vision for Tremont Nail mixes history, modernity

By Matthew Bernat | Mar 09, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Director of Planning & Community Development Ken Buckland, right, watches Jeremy Lake, of Union Studio, discuss potential uses of the Tremont Nail Factory District.

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


Comments (8)
Posted by: totellthetruth | Mar 10, 2017 09:39

Thanks to the grant, there’s new life for the project explained 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.

How manytimes have we heard these "pie in the sky" visions?

Bottom line- Whats it going to cost US Taxpayers?

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Mar 10, 2017 11:45

Bottom line #2 - Where is the town going to find someone willing to invest in property that:

1) Is across the street from Parker Mills Dam which has been “classified as a High Hazard Potential (Class 1) by the Office of Dam Safety at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, meaning that loss of life or major structural damage could occur if it failed.

An August 2014 report said the dam “faces a multitude of repairs in order to maintain public safety” and that an inspection showed “unstable upstream wall sections, sinkholes and leakage . . . and deterioration of concrete,” as just some of the problems, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.”

2) The ownership of the High Hazard Dam is in question.

3) The access road to the property has been blocked at the Cranberry Highway entrance since June 2014, by Jersey barriers, based upon Mass. DOT concerns about bridge safety.

4) Town Meeting voted in October 2014, despite the question of dam ownership an acceptance of “$165,000 in previously approved state funding and an $835,000, two percent interest loan to repair the dam from the state to the town’s Community Preservation Committee. Repairs, which are estimated at $1.2 million, would include the Elm St. Bridge that crosses the dam, which was recently closed due to a need for repair.”

5) Despite Town Meeting’s vote to approve funding of repairs for both the bridge and the dam in 2014, repairs have not been done to either the bridge, or the dam.

Posted by: bob | Mar 10, 2017 15:03

LAKE,might spell out a great future on this site,but who is going to pay for the clean up of the contaminated grounds and oil soak factory....He see great things at this site,well sell to him at a discount,NO MORE MONEY SHOULD BE SPENT HERE....WASTE TAXPAYERS MONEY..

Posted by: Knocked for six | Mar 10, 2017 17:30


Posted by: Warehamlifer | Mar 11, 2017 08:00

The Dam needs to be fixed before the town can even think on doing anything with the factory.we also should think of moving the daycare that is on the other side of herring run. I don't know how much is going into redoing the main st sidewalks but if that dam goes all the work will be for not.while I'm on main st,I still don't like the bump outs,I feel sorry for the downtown businesses that had some parking spaces taken away from them. I just want to point out that Pat Tropeano does not represent my families views on a lot of things in this great town.

Posted by: bluebird | Mar 11, 2017 16:16

Two comments: First, I believe that the Tremont Nail Factory is alonside the Wankinko River, not the Agawam River and even then the Wankinko is more of a stream at the Nail factory. This brings up the second point, I assume that the "public access boat ramp" refered to in the article is a "carry-in" boat ramp, that is for canoes and kayaks (as well as small row boats with or without small outboards?) since constructing a ramp for boats larger than that would require dredging of the river unless used only at high-tide (at present time, even a canoe or kayak could run aground near the current access point). Even if a larger boat could be launched, the Narrows Bridge limits access except at half tide or lower. Launching a small car-top boat at the Nail Factory would still allow a wonderful slow cruise up the Agawam River after traveling down the Wankinko to the Agawam, and the Agawam is navigatable by small boat all the way up to Rt. 28 near the junction of 6 and 28 (I did it in a 14' boat once! but a canoe or kayak is better!). It would not be a bad idea though to at least make some improvements to the current paddle craft access behind the Nail factory, as it is kind of muddy. Finally, no disrepect meant, but I hardly think that if the Parkers Mill Dam were to let go, I don't think that Main Street will be wiped out. There might be some major erosion around the Nail factory (maybe destroying the large building?) but there is not going to be a devastating flood wiping out the whole Main St. beautification (although, I wouldn't complain if it DID destroy those bump-outs <GRIN!>). There just isn't enough water being held back by the dam to create major damage, especially if it were to fail at low tide. I would think the water would just wash right out to sea, temporarily causing an increase in the outgoing current in the Wankinko and Wareham rivers.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 12, 2017 01:23

Bluebird,  you are correct. The Wankinco originates in Myles Standish and passes by Tremont Nail.  The Agawam originates in Plymouth and passes through East Wareham (Glen Charlie).  The Wankinko and the Agawam converge behind the Jug Shop where they both flow into the Wareham River at The Narrows.  True, the water is very shallow and the bridge is restrictive. The existing boat access is primarily for kayaks and canoes.


It is hard to predict what would happen if that dam breaches.  Although I agree that it probably won't wipe out all of Main Street, there is a lot more water behind it than it appears.  Parker Mills Pond directly on the other side is a fairly significant body of water. Check it out on Google Maps.  All that would be released.  The daycare and the low lying residential neighborhood further down that road, in addition to the Nail Factory property would be most at risk.  Hydraulic engineers/experts can model and predict such a disaster if they already haven't.

Posted by: Warehamlifer | Mar 18, 2017 10:29

If anyone is interested in a good kayak or canoe can put in up off of herring pond rd in Plymouth and get out at boat ramp near Elks and herring run.there are just 2 spots were you have cross dirt roads.takes a good 6 hrs but is a very relaxing trip going with the flow down stream.

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