Nestled in the extreme southwest portion of Barnstable County, MA within the Town of Falmouth, the village of Woods Hole is argueably the most diverse, enduring and unique of all the many business districts located on Cape Cod. Just ask anyone with a connection to Woods Hole and they will proudly tell you that’s just the way it is and how they have liked it for decades.
In such a small, densely improved and hard to access village the level of local, regional and international economic activity transpiring behind the scenes here is literally astonishing.
In Woods Hole, the dominant economic driver for over a century has been the two world renowned educational and research centers, Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL; established in 1888) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, established in 1930). Over the years complimentary organizations such a The Sea Education Association and the highly recognized Woods Hole Research Center have been major enhancements to the Woods Hole community.
Business sectors such as tourism, year round and seasonal residency, eating and drinking establishments, creative arts, fishing, marine trades, and retail trade all meld together and add to the flavor and economic vitality of this small business cluster. The highly active Steamship Authority Terminal, WHOI Exhibit Center, U.S. Coast Guard base, and the popular National Marine Fisheries aquarium all add to the seasonal bustle. It is important to note too that all of this activity is happening in the presence of ongoing freight, auto and passenger ferry traffic and a small drawbridge separating the Woods Hole business district at its center! It’s no wonder these factors make bicycles and walking the preferred modes of transportation in Woods Hole.
Among residents, business owners and those working here, community pride and a clear sense of place is prevalent. In any given day, it is not uncommon to stroll the streets of Woods Hole and hear visiting scientists, researchers, and interns conversing in a range of foreign languages. Organizations such as the The Woods Hole Community Association (organized in 1919) and Woods Hole Business Association go a long way in strengthening and nurturing the fabric of the community.
Over the years, transition in the business community and commercial real estate sector has been low in Woods Hole. Since many commercial properties are owner-occupied, the rental market is extremely tight. Recently, however, certain developments worth noting have surfaced.
In October 2009, Martha’s Vineyard Saving Bank made it known it intends to establish a branch at the former Bank of America branch bank at 2 Water Street. The branch was one of four Cape Cod locations the large national bank announced in June 2009 that it would close in following months.
This summer, The Penikese Island School acquired the office building at 565 Woods Hole Road for $850,000. Founded in 1973, The Penikese Island School is a small therapeutic boarding school for teenage boys on Penikese Island located 12 miles southwest of Woods Hole, MA. The two story 2,600 square foot c. 1806 building overlooks Little Harbor and has on-site parking. The school previously occupied the building as a tenant for many years and will continue to house their administrative offices at this location. The acquisition was financed by Eastern Bank with a loan guarantee from MassDevelopment.
In November 2008, the Cape Cod Commission approved as a Limited DRI, Wise Living at Woods Hole, 43-unit independent senior living facility at the Nautilus Motor Inn located at 533 Woods Hole Road. The project proposes the demolition of the existing 54-unit Nautilus Motor Inn and removal of the existing pool and tennis courts. The design of the proposed two- and three-story buildings will be in a “shingle” style with gambrel roofs and extensive porches and balconies. As part of the redevelopment project, the geodesic dome in the southeastern portion of the 5.41 acre site will be rehabilitated. The dome structure building was designed by R. Buckminster Fuller and built in 1953-1954. For many years the dome structure comprised a 170-seat restaurant (Dome Restaurant), a use which ceased in about 2002.