Decas School could become offices, lab space
The Decas School property could have a bright future as office and lab space, according to a presentation by Grant King, the Director of Comprehensive Planning for the Southeast Regional Planning and Economic and Development District, at the Feb. 16 Board of Selectmen’s meeting.
The new elementary school being built on Minot Avenue is set to welcome students in January 2022, leaving the Decas School empty. Ownership of the building will then be transferred from the school district to the town.
According to a study compiled by SRPEDD, in an ideal scenario, the redeveloped Decas property would be for “high-intensity lab/flex use.” Flex space is space that isn’t limited to simply manufacturing or office use, but can also be used for scientific purposes such as research and development.
A 170,000 square foot high-intensity lab/flex use space would result in an estimated $219,000 annual tax revenue for Wareham and bring approximately 270 jobs. The building would be three stories and built on the footprint of the existing school.
King said there were no real constraints to development on the site, but there is some asbestos in the building which would increase demolition costs somewhat.
The site has several assets, including sufficient existing water and sewer service, good connections to roads and proximity to the highway.
Other uses considered include traditional office space without a lab component and healthcare.
The site itself is large, so there is room for complementary uses like senior housing, a municipal facility or a commuter rail station.
“Choosing economic development for this site is not mutually exclusive with senior housing,” King said.
King said that the proposed flex space would mean slightly more vehicle traffic, but there would be a reduction in water use and wastewater generation.
If the town wants to work towards an outcome like that proposed by SRPEDD, the site would need to be re-zoned. SRPEDD recommended then transferring ownership of the school to the Redevelopment Authority and the creation of an incentive program. Finally, the town would need to prepare the site for construction.
“This is just a great economic development opportunity. I can’t see letting it fall through the cracks,” Selectman Patrick Tropeano said.
For more information about SRPEDD’s study, go to www.srpedd.org/decas-school.