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City looks at new possibilities for Commercial Street

With Malden Center well on the way to a major revival, the city is turning its attention to the site of the next big improvement project, the Commercial Street Corridor. Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) Executive Director Deborah Burke brought a team of urban planners and analysts to the City Council meeting this week to present an overview of a new study that will provide ideas and strategies on how to reimagine and redevelop Commercial Street.

MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, is leading the project and picking up the $75,000 tab for the study. The agency will have some help from Harriman Associates, a planning and urban design firm with more than a century of experience in New England. Also on board is the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, or ICIC, a nonprofit organization that specializes in urban economic development.

“The study will identify strategies to enhance access to the Malden River, improve open space and implement appropriate zoning and land use regulations,” said Burke. “It will define how these strategies support diversified job retention and creation along the corridor that reflect Malden’s competitive edge in the region.”

Commercial Street is now in the city’s spotlight in part because of the changing neighborhood. River’s Edge, a huge mixed-use development located primarily in Medford, appears to be thriving, and the Wynn Boston Harbor resort casino is going up on Everett’s riverfront. Commercial Street is feeling pressure from residential and mixed-use developers looking up the road for the next opportunity.

Amada Maher of MassDevelopment said the new study will focus on how to make the most of the Commercial Street Corridor and its current sea of parking lots and boxy industrial building. “We want to look at how we preserve jobs and create a more robust set of uses,” said Maher, adding that the study will scope out the industries best suited for Commercial Street and those which have the greatest potential. An assessment of environmental factors and challenges in the area, which has been home to some hardcore industrial activity, might shape those recommendations.

The study will also examine the possibility of moving Malden’s Public Works Yard, which is located on a large riverfront parcel owned by MRA. While many agree that a DPW yard is not the best use for a prime piece of municipal waterfront property, the problem is finding a new location large enough for the DPW.

Burke said the study will offer strategies to reclaim the DPW site and achieve other goals, such as attracting new businesses that will bring a mix of jobs and opportunities for workers with a broad range of experience and skills. “The focus is to reinvigorate the corridor with commercial activity,” she said. Improving public access to the river and creating more open space are also key elements of a new enterprise hub on Commercial Street.

The community will have a chance to weigh in on the plan for a Commercial Street makeover. “As part of the planning process, we will host public events and meetings to solicit ideas, answer questions and get feedback from Malden residents, business owners, community groups and others,” said Burke, adding that the study group will also be reaching out to the stakeholders in the upcoming weeks.

Staff from MassDevelopment, Harriman Associates and ICIC plan to start the community conversation on the Commercial Street Corridor at the different neighborhood Fourth of July celebrations, including those scheduled for July 2.

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