By Barbara Taormina
The City Council is launching an ad hoc committee to explore the possibilities for redevelopment of the old Malden Hospital site.
Ward 3 Councillor John Matheson proposed creating a committee that would review options for the 18-acre site based on the community’s needs and interests. “We have heard over a long period of time, through ballot questions, surveys, open forums, petitions and community groups, that the residents want a low-impact development that incorporates open space,” said Matheson.
About 20 percent of the hospital property is set in Medford, where residents also have concerns about the future use of the site. Medford established a committee to review redevelopment plans back at the start of 2016, and Matheson said it’s about time Malden did the same. He said he envisions holding a summit with Medford to find a solution for the property that works for both communities.
Fellsmere Housing Group, which has proposed a residential development with a mix of more than 300 condos and rental units and 18 single-family homes on the hospital site, has presented studies that show their project would have a limited impact on city schools and services. But other committees and community organizations have gathered information that shows that another large, high-density residential development would strain Malden’s schools and have a significant impact on the environment. Issues and concerns about traffic congestion and roadway safety also remain unresolved.
Money is a major factor and Matheson said that the council passed a resolve to set aside $5 million in financial reserves for the future redevelopment of the site. But the Finance Committee, which was asked to review potential funding, has been focused on the replacement of lead water pipes and the reconstruction of city roads, and the hospital site has been on the city’s back burner for the past couple of years. However, with Malden’s moratorium on residential development set to expire at the end of the year, development of the hospital site is set to become the city’s next big issue.
“We’ve been debating this for all too long,” said Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora, who, like other councillors, supported creating the ad hoc committee. “I would love to see it done sooner rather than later.”
Matheson proposed a five-member committee made up of four city councillors who are interested in exploring the redevelopment options and a member of the community. He suggested that councillors consider Prisco Tammaro, who is a member of Malden’s Open Space and Recreation Committee and the president of the Friends of Fellsmere Heights, as a member of the committee.
The Friends, a community organization of residents from both Malden and Medford, have proposed preserving the hospital site’s open space and using it for community benefits, such as athletic fields, bike trails, gardens and senior housing.