By Barbara Taormina
The City Council unanimously and enthusiastically approved an order to borrow $5 million this week to finish Malden’s new City Hall.
Councillors took turns at the mic to praise the building, the Municipal Building Committee that shepherded the interior design, and the “creative financing” that allowed the city to build a new Police Station and a new City Hall as part of an ambitious plan to reconfigure and revitalize downtown Malden.
Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora, who served on the building committee along with Ward 5 Councillor Barbara Murphy, Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley and other city officials, said the group put a tremendous amount of work into both the aesthetics and the durability of the building. Malden’s new City Hall, which is actually a three-story, 50,000 square-foot condominium in Jefferson Apartment Group’s mixed-used development on the site of the old City Hall, will feature lots of glass, wood and tile, sustainable materials that promise to stand up well against the test of time.
“It’s not extravagant, but it’s a well-designed, usable work space for not just the employees of the City of Malden, but also for the residents of Malden,” said Spadafora, who followed up that thought with a practical note.
“We are bonding for $5 million because if we don’t bond it, we won’t have a City Hall,” he said. “Still, $5 million is well worth it.”
A virtual tour of the building posted on the city’s website walks viewers into a bright two-story lobby with an open staircase that leads to city department offices on the second and third floors. To the left of the lobby is the oval-shaped City Council Chambers, which appears to be encased in glass and defined by strong vertical lines of architectural woodwork. It is, as almost every councillor said, impressive.
Murphy said the Building Committee put a lot of thought into work flow, functionality and accessibility. “We made sure it’s a building that will work well for city employees to do everything we need to do to support our residents,” she said.
Ward 6 Councillor David Camell, who serves on the city’s Energy Efficiency Commission, praised all the work that went into outfitting the building with eco-friendly heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. “It looks like it will be a great building that we all can be proud of,” he said.
Councillor-at-Large Steve Winslow took on the task of explaining to the audience at the Senior Center why the city needed so much more money to finish the project. “[Former City Planner] Ron Hogan made it very clear that we are getting a bigger space than when the initial budget was put together,” said Winslow. Since the project was first proposed, construction costs have also increased dramatically along with the price of office furniture. Winslow also explained that the $5 million bond includes contingency funding, or a $1.5 million extra-cash buffer to cover any unforeseen or unanticipated costs.
The new debt was also noted by Ward 3 Councillor John Matheson, who acknowledged the $5 million bond is coming on the coattails of the city’s decision to borrow $6 million for energy efficiency upgrades in municipal building and $5 million to repair and rebuild another batch of city roads. Still, Matheson called the combination of the new Police Station and the new City Hall one of the best and most remarkable deals the city has ever made.
There are a lot of pieces to the financing behind the project. Jefferson Apartment Group paid the city $9.8 million for a 2.2-acre parcel that was the site of the old Police Station and City Hall. But the city paid the developer $2.5 million for the City Hall condo and gave the company $9 million in tax breaks for its multiuse project.
To help move the city’s downtown revitalization forward, city was awarded a $9.8 million MassWorks infrastructure grant courtesy of all tax payers in the Commonwealth.
The cost for the police station included $3.4 million for the land which was acquired through eminent domain, and $12.4 million for the design and construction of the building. According to Hogan, outfitting the building brought the total cost of the new station close to $20 million, which was several million less than expected.
Along the way, the city borrowed $12.5 million to pay for the downtown revitalization projects. Several million more dollars has been spent to buy and rent temporary space for city hall offices. And now, city officials acknowledge they needed to cap that off with a new $5 million bond.
Still, councillors believe the money has gone toward a critical investment in Malden’s future and some have even called city hall their legacy.
“It’s a new gateway to our community,” said Councillor Ryan O’Malley. “I think residents will be proud of this building.”