Smithers Lab interested in purchasing Decas School

May 20, 2021

The Smithers Laboratory, which has operated out of a location next door to the Decas School since 2002, has expressed interest in purchasing the school after it closes, officials reported at the May 20 Redevelopment Authority Meeting.

The lab is requesting a zoning change at the June 12 Town Meeting that would allow the company to begin testing cannabis at its current location, which is less than 500 feet from the school.

And they may be expanding further.

The Decas School is set to close in January 2022, once students have moved to the new school being built on Minot Avenue.

A variety of uses have been floated for the old school. Calls to convert the building to senior housing seem unlikely to go forward, as the Redevelopment Authority, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, and senior housing developer Pennrose have agreed the site is not well-suited for that use.

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, SRPEDD reported. The building would be three stories and built on the footprint of the existing school.

While members of the Redevelopment Authority were excited by Smithers’ interest, Town Planner Ken Buckland noted there was a long road ahead of such a purchase. The town would need to go through a bid process, and corporate approval for the purchase would likely also be a lengthy procedure.