Reviving forgotten Malden

There are two big reasons to get excited about the proposed Commercial Street Corridor unveiled by city planners with Malden Mayor Gary Christenson’s blessing.

The section of the city roughly defined by Commercial Street at Route 60, Medford Street, Canal Street and the Medford line is “a forgotten part of Malden,” according to the man serving as point person for the corridor’s revival.

Kevin Hunter works for the Malden Redevelopment Authority and the MRA owns the big expanse of Commercial Street land where the city Public Works complex is located. That ownership places the city at a huge advantage when it comes to setting the tone for the corridor’s revival and spurring redevelopment.

The reason control over the site is important to future development is because planners working with elected officials, residents and business owners, can decide if Public Works should stay on the site or move.

“Everything is on the table,” Hunter said. Those are words spoken by a man who understands that reviving and bringing jobs to a corner of Malden in need of economic stimulation doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

More often than not, well-intentioned planners try to assure frustrated residents and politicians with promises that a development is possible when they know that, in reality, it is a long shot. Efforts by municipalities to acquire property in a blighted or underdeveloped neighborhood can get stalled by lack of money or court fights. Efforts to encourage developers to buy and build in a neighborhood can fall flat when investors assess risk versus reward and decide to keep their money in their pockets.

But Malden, from the MRA and Christenson on down to local residents, is organizing and holding meetings in a bid to craft a detailed public plan for the Commercial Street Corridor.

The second reason this endeavor is creating a buzz around the city is the corridor’s proximity to the Malden River. Already the focus of protection efforts by local environmentalists, the city’s waterway runs adjacent to the corridor, making it a natural major planning component for revival efforts.

Planners fantasize about opportunities to mix and match the building blocks of a successful development. Finding ways to bring jobs to the corridor can be matched with recreational and open space projects along the river that buttress residential development plans and give people more reasons to visit a once-forgotten part of the city.

Planning on the corridor stretches through the summer and into the fall when a formal planning presentation will be made to the City Council in October. It’s hard not to imagine a packed house in attendance for that presentation.

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