Killing a beast in Malden

May 31, 2017

ITEM FILE PHOTO
A plan for a new development in Malden.

Malden has launched a sweeping downtown renovation project that is bold in its scope and redefining in its ability to shape the city’s downtown.

At the center of of the $100 million-plus project is the demolition of the “Beast That Ate Pleasant Street.” That is the name local wits gave City Hall with the nickname referring to the unfortunate decision 40 years ago to have the seat of city government straddle one of Malden’s most vibrant streets.

The six-story municipal building and the former police station will be replaced with a transit-oriented, mixed use development that will reopen Malden Square’s primary retail street — Pleasant Street — and reconnect it with the Malden Center MBTA Station at Malden Center.

Dubbed “Jefferson at Malden Center,” the massive project will rise not only on the former City Hall and police station lots but also on the site of First Church. Construction plans call for constructing

320 residential units in two buildings, a 45,000 square foot office condominium shell (to be built out by the city for a new city hall), more than 22,500 square feet of ground floor retail, and approximately 330 parking spaces.  

The two buildings will be connected by a sky bridge. The development will have 30,000 square feet of amenities for its residential tenants including a pool, three-season deck and a yoga lawn. City officials are touting the project as the new “front door” to Pleasant Street.”

State Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash called the development “the definition of a bold move.” Finding a comparison to Malden’s vision for its downtown requires traveling to neighboring Revere where the city’s beachfront, with help from the state, is being transformed into new residential towers with a parking garage nearby and skyway connecting the beach to the Wonderland Blue Line station.

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Always one to shy away from mundane language, Ash credited Malden officials for “knocking the knock” in addition to walking the walk when it comes to making a bold urban development decision.

The Jefferson project is also a study in political will with Mayor Gary Christenson carrying on the legacy of former Mayor Richard Howard who, in Ash’s words, fought the “good fights” to get his city focused on downtown redevelopment.

“Malden is doing something here that every other community wants to do or should be doing in their downtown,” Ash said.

It is not surprising to hear Ash so excited about Malden’s transformation. After all, he helped guide the city of Chelsea’s resurgence with state help and the same progressive approach to working with developers that Christenson has demonstrated.

One of those developers, Jefferson Apartment Group Vice President Sandi Silk, called his firm’s plans for Malden, working in partnership with the city and state, “a first — anywhere.”

“Reconnecting Pleasant Street will dramatically change how residents and visitors perceive and use Malden, how they shop and dine in this community,” Silk said.

That is strong language and it underscores the transformative power of political will and community cooperation when it is focused on change and harnessed to the goal of making life in a community better.