By Barbara Taormina
Three years ago, 71 percent of the residents who went to the polls for the local election voted in favor of the city acquiring the Malden Hospital site, and although it has taken some time, a plan in now in the works.
The nonprofit group Friends of Fellsmere Heights has teamed up with Boston Architectural College to develop a conceptual community-based plan for the 18-acre site that straddles the border of Malden and Medford. Hospital site review committees from both cities hope the plan will help open negotiations with the site’s owners, MelroseWakefield Healthcare, formerly Hallmark Health, and provide the information needed to tap state grants and other funding opportunities.
Money has been the main roadblock for Friends and others who support redeveloping the hospital site to provide open space and community resources for Malden and Medford. MelroseWakefield Healthcare has been focused on Fellsmere Housing Group’s proposal to purchase the site for a private residential development with a mix of more than 250 condos and single-family homes. That project would require a zoning change for the area, which now allows only the construction of single-family houses.
Both Malden and Medford have Community Preservation funds available to increase and protect open space, but to apply for that money community groups need a letter of consent from MelroseWakefield Healthcare acknowledging the organization’s willingness to negotiate a sale. So far, no such letter has been written.
But timing might be everything. MelroseWakefield’s announcement of its plan to close the emergency room at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford has raised concerns about the future of that medical facility. Several Malden City Councillors have pointed out that Malden Hospital’s closure in 1999 began with shutting down the emergency room, and they worry that Lawrence Memorial may be on the same path. MelroseWakefield Healthcare may need something to boost local goodwill and faith in the organization’s commitment to community health needs, and giving the Friends of Fellsmere Heights a seat at the table to negotiate the future of the Malden Hospital site may help.
With letters of consent from MelroseWakefield, Medford and Malden can apply for Community Preservation funding to purchase 3.6 acres of land at 47 Grover Rd. and 5 acres at 57 Hospital Rd. The ultimate goal is to acquire the 9.5 acres of land at 100 Hospital Rd.
As part of their work, Boston Architectural College is conducting an online survey to gauge how residents feel about the redevelopment of the Malden Hospital site, and what types of uses would best fit the needs of Malden and Medford. To take part in the survey, go to www.fellsmereheights.org.