Wareham's plan for Tremont Nail site includes concert, exhibition space

By Matthew Bernat | May 31, 2017
A slide from Wednesday's presentation shows plans for exhibition space and new homes in the Tremont Nail Factory district.

A new plan for the Tremont Nail Factory District was unveiled on May 31 that envisions a vibrant cultural destination, complete with space for artists, exhibitions, concerts and recreation.

Town and state officials want to transform the former industrial site into a destination for residents and tourists alike. Rhode Island-based design firm Union Studio and MassDevelopment, a state agency with a track record of revamping blighted properties, were enlisted to make that a reality.

The proposal was discussed at a public meeting held in the Town Hall auditorium attended by approximately 40 people. While audience members applauded the new plan, officials said actually implementing it will require a concerted effort.

“Last time we had a study done it told us what we could do,” said Selectman Chair Peter Teitelbaum, referring to a feasibility study done a few years ago that was shelved. “We needed someone to tell us what we should do…We need everybody to stay engaged on this.”

The town-owned, 7.2-acre site is located on Elm Street. 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 awarded the town $50,000 to study potential uses for the site. Wednesday’s meeting was an opportunity for the public to learn what plans Union Studio developed based on input from various stakeholders in town, said Director of Planning & Community Development Ken Buckland.

“We want to redevelop this in a way that will preserve the history of the site while making the property vital again,” said Buckland.

Jeremy Lake, a senior associate with Union Studio, outlined the plan. It calls for preserving all the historic buildings on the site, including the former main factory, a hulking structure with a rich history. A large metal building built more recently may or may not be razed to make room for eight multi-family homes in the future. Lake noted that all of the plans were recommendations. Ultimately, local leaders must decide what direction to take.

Short term, Lake said the town should focus on using “the yard,” the name given to the open lot in the center of the site, for car shows or farmers markets. Plans also call for making the waterfront an attraction by making it park-like and adding a launch for small boats.

Lake noted adding trails connecting the site to Merchants Way would bring in foot traffic and bring more business to Wareham Village.

Another suggestion called for using the former office building on the site as the location of a museum on the history of the site. Uses for the historic buildings also included turning them into space for events, exhibitions and concerts.

Kirk Whipple, one of the founders of the Cranberry Coast Concert series, endorsed that final suggestion. Whipple said Wareham’s potential for drawing tourists hasn’t been fully developed. Using the Tremont site to do that is a huge opportunity, he said.

“This needs to become a destination with its own identity,” said Whipple. “I don’t know why it took so long for Wareham to say, ‘you don’t need to go over the bridge, you don’t need to fight traffic.’” Whipple added that the Cranberry Coast Concert series would be a good fit for a revamped site.

There are some potential obstacles to redevelopment, Lake said. New construction is prohibited on most of the site due to wetland regulations; however, Lake said the northwest corner of the site isn’t under that restriction. Also, renovations of the historic buildings would be allowed.

An environmental study performed last year uncovered contaminates at the site. Teitelbaum said a second study is scheduled to take place soon. Once completed, that study should reveal the extent of the contamination, but Teitelbaum was hopeful the problem isn’t as large as he initially thought.

Teitelbaum said he was skeptical of the town purchasing the site when it was first announced. As recently as 2013, Teitelbaum said he would have preferred to see the factory and other buildings gone. With new plans in hand he said town officials are optimistic the project will start moving forward.

“The town is committed to cleaning up the site and getting people engaged,” he said.

Next steps include collaborating with MassDevelopment, which may award the town funds to clean up pollution on the site. Teitelbaum said a clear plan forward is a major step in securing those funds.

In the meantime, residents are invited to follow the project’s progress, make suggestions and view the plans at a website dedicated to the redevelopment process. For more information, visit www.courb.co/tnf.

Comments (11)
Posted by: BeachLover | Jun 01, 2017 07:45

I wanted to attend last night; but had prior commitment.  So very glad to wake up this morning and read that this unique part of Wareham is going to remain.    The plans outlined are exactly what was hoped for.    YEAH

Posted by: Mike | Jun 01, 2017 08:02

What I got out of the meeting was that we should build low end housing on the vacant land  first to generate income and than find top tenants for the Tremont nail historic buildings.

I believe you should first find the best tenants for the historic buildings ( as they are what we are trying to protect ) and see what those tenants want to do with the vacant land, if not you could end up with low end housing in the historic district and nothing else!

Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Jun 01, 2017 08:12

Mike, I don't know how you arrived at that conclusion, as Jeremy Lake clearly stated that the first choice for any housing would be market-rate units, not affordable ones.  And the proposed initial focus would be to get people out to the site to use it for events, and then work to revitalize the existing buildings and find tenants for them once the environmental issues are fully identified and resolved.  That needs to happen regardless of any housing being added.

Posted by: shop247 | Jun 01, 2017 08:35

Thanks for clarification on the housing, my first thought was affordable or something low end.  And in that statement, I realized how tainted I've become.  lol  Will the bridge finally get fixed?  Biggest question of all.....who's paying for this?

Posted by: Richard Swenson | Jun 01, 2017 08:43

Agree with Peter... to add to that, a key take away I heard was that to lead with residential housing, in any configuration, would be very risky from a financial/marketing perspective.  The phased approach starting with the main building renovation and use, and continuing with additional existing building renovation and use, would allow a later phase of possible residential space to be designed and implemented with much more data available, to ensure that the best solution could be implemented.  In my opinion, the main building is the 'anchor' of the project, and all efforts start with it.

Posted by: felinesmom | Jun 01, 2017 09:18

Will this meeting be shown on cable tv?  When?  Will it be stored in the "on demand" section?

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jun 01, 2017 09:28

This is impressive.  I was originally a resident with "ire" (as stated above). Now I am on board and rather excited about this.  Many thanks to Ken Buckland and everybody involved.


The dam bridge (no pun intended) is still a huge concern.  It obviously must be repaired in order for all this to happen so I just assume it will be.  As far as residential housing, I agree with those that feel it is risky. Even if the eight multi-family homes are market rate, that's a lot of people, kids, dogs, cars, traffic, noise, etc infringing on the proposed. Mr. Teitelbaum cleared up the low end housing concern, that is certainly a relief.  This is definitely not the place for that.  We want this to be attractive.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Jun 01, 2017 11:34

Plans sound positive to me. The suggestion of making use of the available outdoor space now for car shows, farmers markets and other outdoor activities is excellent. Advertised well, it would draw people from other communities into Wareham, and encourage visitors (and potential future land users) to see it as a destination for frequent events. Craft fairs, summer art and antique shows, food truck events would all work well there.


Please everyone, if you can think of other summer uses for the property that haven't already been mentioned, share your ideas!

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jun 01, 2017 12:40

I see mention of a museum and preserving all the historic buildings, including the main factory.  Does that mean that there will be tours? If so, I'm thinking school field trips from towns all around.  My kids have had field trips to Heritage Plantation in Sandwich and Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth. This sounds like Wareham's equivalent. If so, that's great.


The largest attraction that they currently bus kids to Wareham for is Water Whizz. That place is fun but won't it be great for kids to recognized Wareham for something historic and educational?



Posted by: Rosebud | Jun 03, 2017 19:41

Does anyone know if the bridge is safe enough to be kept open for pedestrian use only?  If so, it would save a great deal of money and provide a nice area in which to walk.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jun 05, 2017 19:47

Rosebud, the bridge is also a dam. Currently it can be walked on.  I just did the other day. I doubt it could be left alone and included as part of the new project.  It's unpredictable. Water pressure, ice, storms, or   a hurricane and who knows what might happen.

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