Pictured is the former site of the Malden Evening News and Medford Daily Mercury on at 277 Commercial St.
By STEVE FREKER
MALDEN — A community health center could be coming to a historic location just outside of Malden Square, providing services to nearly 4,000 locals who currently have to go to Boston for care.
The new owners of the building that formerly housed operations for the Malden Evening News and Medford Daily Mercury want to establish a health center at the 277 Commercial St. site. They say they are prepared invest $5 million in renovations on top of the $3 million they paid for the building in February.
South Cove Community Health Center, whose patients are almost exclusively of Asian descent, still needs approval from the Malden Planning Board for a special permit to remodel and open the facility.
South Cove sought a permit for a change of use to allow alterations and renovations to the building. South Cove wants to establish a medical center and community health center in an area zoned for industrial use. The building’s owners are hoping for a favorable decision at the next planning board meeting May 10.
A public hearing on the matter was tabled April 12 without a decision.
In business since 1972, South Cove has locations in Brighton, Chinatown, Quincy, and adjacent to South Station in Boston. Around 32,000 patients per year are seen at the existing locations annually.
South Cove officials say nearly 4,000 Malden residents are currently active patients in its medical system. CEO Eugene Welch said a Malden location would be ideal for its local patients.
“Many times we have been asked to establish a health center in Malden,” he said. “Many (Malden residents) now travel regularly to our Boston locations and would be seen right in their own community if we are successful.”
The former newspaper’s owners tried for several years to sell the building. A purchase-and-sale agreement with a self-storage outlet in July 2016 included a plan to raze the building and construct a four-story facility.
That offer was withdrawn and newspaper operations continued after strong objections from Malden Councilor-at-Large Craig Spadafora and other city officials.
South Cove has had two neighborhood meetings and its plans have received largely favorable reviews, according to Malden Council President Peg Crowe. The proposed site is in Ward 1, which Crowe represents.
“It would be one of the best uses for that location and a use that would benefit our residents,” she said. “I am totally in support.”
City Councilor Paul Condon, whose ward abuts the site by one street, also expressed support for the South Cove project.
If the special permit is granted by the planning board, South Cove projects opening in Malden as soon as December 2017, following a roof-to-floor remodeling operation.
The Malden Evening News and Medford Daily Mercury operated in the 16,000 square-foot building on the 1.2 acre site for the past 40 years since its construction in 1977.
Citing financial issues, the two newspapers, which printed a daily edition since 1882, ceased publication Jan. 23. The Horgan family, all Lynn natives, finalized sale of the building and land in February.