A Year in Review: Malden in 2017
By Barbara Taormina
As the city gets ready to close the books on 2017, many will look back and remember the highs and lows of the past year. While people will have different opinions about the progress of the past 12 months, the following stories reflect some of the moments that mattered most to Malden:
The demolition of City Hall
Over the summer, the city watched as the walls came tumbling down at 200 Pleasant St. The old City Hall, Police Station and the First Church of Malden were razed to make way for Jefferson at Malden Center, a private development that will bring 320 new apartments and many new shops and restaurants to Malden. The project includes a huge 45,000 square-foot office condo that will be Malden’s next City Hall. The demolition of the six-story government center that went up during the 1970s was a key step in the revitalization of Malden Center which will redefine the city for generations to come.
Malden’s Growth Management Study and Moratorium Survey
In March, Community Opportunities Group, Inc. of Boston, released Malden’s Growth Management Study that was conducted as part of the city’s two-year moratorium on multifamily development projects. The city also conducted a Moratorium Survey which drew more than 2,000 responses, the largest and loudest public survey in city history.
And it wasn’t even close. Among those who responded to the survey, nearly 87 percent said Malden’s population, which is now around 63,000, should not grow beyond 65,000. As for more residential development, 73 percent were against more apartment buildings throughout the city, and 67 percent said there has been enough development in Malden Square. Increasing public open space was a priority for 81 percent of the respondents.
According to the research team at Community Opportunities Group, which ran a series of public forums, there was “strong sentiment that the city should limit future large-scale multifamily development both in the downtown and elsewhere.” The study found that residents wanted more public open space, particularly at the Malden Hospital site and along the Malden River. And many residents felt that excessive growth is a potential threat to city services and schools.
The push to reclaim the Malden River as a community asset took off over the summer with a series of public meetings about the Malden River Greenway, a plan to create several miles of seamless waterfront parkland in Malden, Medford and Everett. Organized by the Mystic River Watershed Association with the support of city government and community groups, such as Friends of the Malden River and Bike to the Sea, the greenway plan calls for a network of new riverfront walkways, parks, bridges and boating ramps and docks along the Malden River.
The 2017 city election
Voter turnout was not outstanding. According to the City Clerk’s Office, 22 percent of Malden’s eligible voters went to the polls last November, and that’s up just one percent from the 2013 and 2015 municipal elections. Still, there were more candidates than usual running for seats on the City Council and School Committee in 2017. And those candidates campaigned with plenty of heart and brought a whole range of issues to the table.
The School Committee will welcome three new members: Robert McCarthy, who will represent Ward 2; Jen Spadafora, who will represent Ward 3; and Coleen Leon, who was elected to the Ward 6 seat.
David Camell has already been sworn in to fill the Ward 6 seat on the City Council which was left vacant last June when former Councillor Neil Kinnon resigned. Steve Winslow will also join the council in January in one of the three at-large seats.
Last June, Councillor-at-Large Debbie DeMaria proposed setting aside 30 minutes at the start of each City Council meeting for members of the community to share their views and concerns. Despite broad-based support for adding public comment to the City Council agenda, a series of events led to the proposal’s defeat in September.
DeMaria has vowed to bring back public comment for another City Council vote in 2018. Still, while community comments are not yet part of Malden government’s official record, public views and opinions are being expressed and heard. A fast-growing group of citizen journalists are reporting on local issues, and more and more residents are joining discussions on online community forums.