Three buildings, three stories of development on Main Street
A bar arcade, a pawn shop and an empty bank. Three ownership shuffles on Main Street tell three stories of downtown Wareham’s potential future.
Businessman Danny Warren and his son Philip plan to turn the current Advanced Engine Rebuilding headquarters into a full-service restaurant, bar and video arcade. The company that purchased the former Eastern Bank building in 2022 has defaulted on its loan, leaving the 98-year-old building up for sale once again. And earlier this month, Finance Committee member Dominic Cammarano purchased the former Santander Bank location, planning to move his business, Gateway Gold and Pawn, into it.
After Town Meeting voted in April to allow mixed-use zoning and to increase building height and density on Main Street, downtown Wareham’s future is in flux.
‘Nostalgia and off-the-wall craziness’
In April 2021, businessman Danny Warren purchased the 6,000-square-foot Advanced Engine Rebuilding headquarters at 176 Main St. for $650,000. In 2023, the town appraised the building at $611,500. Advanced Engine Rebuilding owner Hans Westberg closed his business in April.
When Warren initially purchased the building, he expressed interest in making it “a really high-end steakhouse.”
Since then, his plans have changed. Danny will lease the property to his son Philip, who plants to open a bar arcade on the property.
A bar arcade offers food and drink alongside arcade-style video games. While Philip has no experience running a restaurant, he is working closely with an advisor who already owns several bar arcades. Philip has been planning to build a bar arcade in Wareham for two years, after seeing the success of other bar arcades elsewhere in Massachusetts and in Rhode Island.
“I feel like there’s a lack of fun and entertainment that serves people in my age group and younger,” said Philip, 34. “I see the 21-to-45-year-old age group as kind of underserved in Wareham.”
Philip plans to take people of that age demographic back to their childhoods with vintage arcade machines from the 1980s and 1990s. He wants the look of the bar arcade to be “nostalgia and off-the-wall craziness,” with neon colors, lava lamps, glow-in-the-dark paint and retro pop culture memorabilia.
All of the arcade machines themselves would be free — a single payment would be required to enter. No one under 21 would be allowed in the bar arcade without an adult at any time. Before 7 p.m., alcohol would not be allowed to leave the bar at any time. At 7 p.m. each night, everyone under 21 would be asked to leave the establishment. (Wristbands would be used to determine the age of each guest). At that time, guests could walk around and play games with their drinks in hand.
“We don’t want to take any chance that it will turn into a rowdy place,” Philip said.
Philip envisions the bar arcade being an event space for live music, karaoke, stand-up comedy and movie nights.
Construction of the bar arcade is estimated to cost $500,000. Philip expects it to open near the end of this year.
Philip, his architects and his engineers plan to show the Planning Board a project proposal in June. Philip expects it to be “a slam dunk.”
“I’ve had such a surprising amount of support from every town official I’ve explained the project to,” he said. “Everyone is excited for it.”
If they do not receive the Planning Board’s blessing, the Warrens plan to sell the property.
‘It can be almost anything’
The 10,000-square-foot Eastern Bank office at 226 Main St., built in 1925, was closed in May 2022. In 2023, the town appraised the property as being worth $1,523,000.
In January 2022, a company by the name of “226 Main St. LLC” bought the building for $1,425,000. The company has no address or phone number — its listed contact information is that of a registered agent service in Pittsfield.
The property was sold in April 2023 to Richard A. Stahl, a private lender based in New Hampshire, for $750,000. 226 Main St. LLC took out a loan from Stahl to pay for the property, but defaulted on it. Now, Stahl wants to get the property off his hands as soon as possible. He called it “a good, healthy building” that doesn’t require much maintenance.
“It’s a handsome building,” Stahl said. “The building is well-constructed. It would be ideal for a bank, but right now, banks have their share of problems. No bank is looking to expand right now.”
After Town Meeting’s vote to allow taller, denser mixed-use buildings on Main Street, he said the building “could be anything.”
“It would make an ideal condominium,” he said. “Retail on the ground floor, go up a couple stories.”
The Eastern Bank building is currently on the open market with a listing price of $995,000. BRiT Realty is handling the sale.
Finance Committee member Dominic Cammarano purchased the 3,000-square-foot Santander Bank office at 261 Main St. for an undisclosed amount in early May. In 2023, the town appraised the property as being worth $639,600.
Cammarano plans to move his Gateway Gold and Pawn shop into the building, and rent out any leftover area for use as office space.
“I have a few people interested,” he said.
As for the pawn shop’s current location at 294 Main St., Cammarano plans to sell it and “see what happens” if anyone wants to develop on it.
In the past, Cammarano and the Select Board have sparred over the pawn shop’s Main Street location, with Select Board members arguing that the business “has a negative impact” on Main Street’s image.