Officials hear second firm’s pitch to create Wareham Village urban renewal plan

Jan 6, 2022

Emily Innes of Innes Associates attended the Wareham Redevelopment Authority’s Jan. 6 meeting to formally pitch to the board that her firm would be the town’s best choice for creating an urban renewal plan for Wareham Village. 

An urban renewal plan is “a strategy for redeveloping and revitalizing substandard, decadent and blighted open areas for residential, commercial, industrial, business, governmental, recreational, educational, hospital or other uses,” according to the state.

Towns with an approved urban renewal plan are able to acquire real estate, including through eminent domain; demolish or rehabilitate structures; and receive grants and loans, among other powers.

Innes said that her approach would build on the research and planning the town has already completed, including the town’s existing master plan and the slum and blight study findings. 

“You already have a master plan,” she said. “So you’re ahead of the game in starting with that. I think a lot of the public outreach is going to be confirming — and also understanding are there implications that may not have been captured by those other plans.”

Early on in the process, Innes said she would conduct a site visit and do “a lot of photographic documentation” of Wareham Village’s current state.

After a bit of work to nail down the town’s vision, Innes said the next step would be developing specific goals to support the vision and identifying the properties in Wareham Village that could “contribute to supporting the vision.”

Innes pointed out that she likes to think of how different parts of the community work in tandem when making urban renewal plans. 

“I like the idea of thinking about how downtown Wareham Village and Wareham Crossing perhaps interact with each other,” she said. “In fact, I’ve worked a lot in communities where you’ve got areas with these distinct identities that need to raise each other without cannibalizing activities.”

When developing the urban renewal plan, Innes said she would keep an eye on opportunities for both public and private investment. 

The required financial plan portion of the urban renewal plan would be specific to the public Redevelopment Authority or town investment, Innes said, but “we should be aware that there would be investment even on the private side.”

Innes also emphasized the importance of being creative when soliciting public input for an urban renewal plan. 

“Pre-covid there was an awful lot more of ‘let’s get everybody into a big room,’” she said. “That’s a good way to reach a group of people that has that time.” 

But to reach others, Innes said she has planned events like “Coffee with the Planners,” walking tours of downtown areas and virtual Zoom discussions.

“A lot of these things that we did during covid actually translates as good planning practice anyway, in terms of reaching people who can’t be in a specific room at a specific time,” she said.

Innes also noted that she has experience working with visuals and graphics to help residents understand proposed approaches to redevelopment or hiring people for more in-depth rendering creation.

Members of the Redevelopment Authority thanked Innes for the presentation and commended her work. 

The board heard a presentation from another firm in December. It is unclear exactly when the board will make a final decision about which company will be selected to create the urban renewal plan for Wareham Village.