Decas Elementary School’s redevelopment potential

Nov 19, 2020

While there are many possible futures for the John W. Decas Elementary School property, officials from the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) and the Wareham Redevelopment Authority see strong economic potential.

Grant King, SRPEDD’s director of comprehensive planning and housing, said that while SRPEDD prioritizes the will of the community at large, the Decas School property has great redevelopment potential.

“This is a really good site for economic development,” he said, noting that sites for “true economic development” in Wareham were somewhat scarce. 

King said the Decas School property has been the subject of some “anecdotal interest” from developers.

“I would think twice before going a different direction,” he added when committee members mentioned that some Wareham residents and town officials had expressed interest in repurposing the Decas School as senior housing. 

According to the 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 Sensata Tech development in Attleboro would fall into the high-intensity lab/flex space category, and Wareham’s Smithers facility, located near the Decas School, is an example of a firm that uses flex space.

Currently, the Decas property — 15.5 acres of land along with a 70,000 square foot building — has an $8.6 million valuation, according to the SRPEDD report. The report identified only one potential constraint to redevelopment: The building’s minor asbestos liability would increase demolition costs by an estimated two to three times normal costs.

Otherwise, the report concluded that Decas School property has sufficient road infrastructure and water service to support the proposed lab/flex use alternative.

King outlined SRPEDD’s vision for the property, which included rezoning the area for uses other than residential or educational purposes. King also said the Redevelopment Authority would want to get the town to transfer the ownership of the building to them if economic development was going to be the future of the Decas School.

Previously, the Public Safety Complex Study Committee had also looked at the Decas School as a potential site for the new police station and public safety complex.  

The construction of the new elementary school is set to be completed in January 2022. At that time, the school district will likely transfer ownership of the Decas School to the Board of Selectmen. 

The board could then choose to give the Redevelopment Authority ownership of the property or choose to use it for other purposes, such as the public safety complex.