By STEVE FREKER
MALDEN — The first steps toward an awakening of one of the city’s most underutilized development areas have been laid out and there is a new buzz about the newly-named Commercial Street Corridor.
While many sections of Malden have changed for the better in leaps and bounds, adding vibrancy and vitality, the area around the southern end of Commercial Street and Medford Street has remained much the same for decades.
That all stands to change — and quickly — according to Malden city officials, as goals are now in place to create and retain jobs through new commercial, industrial or mixed use developments in that section of the city and create a “re-do” that will set a new future.
“It has been somewhat of a forgotten part of Malden,” said Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) senior planner and policy manager Kevin Hunter of the Commercial Street Corridor. “There has been no real destination aspect there.”
Hunter has been integrally involved and the lead MRA official with a major development evaluation, the Commercial Street Framework Plan study. The city of Malden hired a consultant team that includes Harriman Architecture, Engineering & Planning, and Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) will be assisting the city and the MRA. Harriman, a design and engineering firm, focuses on urban planning, urban design, and landscape architecture. ICIC’s research and advisory team helps to shape economic development strategies for inner cities.
“One of the main goals of the study is to connect that area of the city to the rest of Malden,” said Hunter, who organized and led a public meeting Thursday attended by several dozen residents and a number of city leaders. “We want to make that area more appealing and more hospitable to potential businesses and developers.”
Local residents, city officials and representatives of Harriman and ICIC shared ideas on how to improve and expand the scope of development in the Commercial Street Corridor at Thursday’s meeting.
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and MRA Executive Director Deborah Burke both addressed those in attendance and expressed excitement and optimism about the study and what it will mean to the area. Also speaking was City Council President Peg Crowe (Ward 1), who echoed the remarks and thanked all in attendance and those involved in the undertaking. “This is a long time coming and it is a great step forward for this area of the city and Malden as a community,” Crowe said. Councilor at large Craig Spadafora and Ward 2 Councilor Paul Condon were also on hand.
After the introductory remarks, those in attendance broke into small groups and brainstormed with ideas and opinions on future uses of the land tracts and existing buildings. Hunter noted that the Commercial Street Corridor includes the length of Commercial Street from Centre Street (Route 60) in Malden Square, south to the River’s Edge development at “Little Creek” at the Medford-Malden city line and then Medford Street, east to Canal Street.
“There’s a lot of great opportunities in that area that the study hopes to identify,” Hunter said. “A lot of great ideas were expressed (at the meeting), a lot of those who took part expressed support for mixed-use development, with some commercial and industrial business and some residential use. Almost everyone at the meeting expressed interest in new and better access to the Malden River, which runs adjacent to the entire area.
“Everyone agreed that we want to bring jobs to Malden — we want to create jobs and retain them — and we have to find the best ways to do that,” Hunter said.
An added focus of the study is to determine the best use and future of the sprawling Malden Department of Public Works (DPW) facility at 356 Commercial St. The land tract is owned by the MRA and Hunter said plans will be formulated for different options for the DPW facility’s future, including moving it, rehabilitating the existing facility or possibly building a new facility there.
“Everything is on the table, we are all going to continue to work together on this,” Hunter said.
The MRA senior planner said the timetable is for the study group to schedule another public meeting in September to review ideas and plot progress and then make formal presentation to the Malden City Council in October.
“It is a work in progress and we are going to continue to work to make a difference in an important part of Malden, that is the goal,” Hunter said.