Surrounded by a chain-link fence and monitored by security 24 hours a day, the deteriorating former Malden Hospital has been vacant for 15 years and it appears nothing will change in the near future.
There are multiple ideas circulating on what to do with the prime 17.6-acre site that straddles the Malden/Medford line with views of the Boston skyline. The owners, MelroseWakefield Healthcare (formerly Hallmark Health), have a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Fellsmere Housing Group, a private corporation best known for the Pinehills development in Plymouth.
The developers would like to build 214 condominiums, 18 town homes, and 18 single-family homes on the site. But the plan is unable to move forward unless the Malden City Council allows a zoning change.
The Friends of Fellsmere Heights , a group formed in 2015 by neighbors in both Malden and Medford, would like to purchase the property through grants. The Friends group is working with Boston Architectural College students to develop a conceptual community-based plan that would preserve 16 acres of the site for open space, but there is currently no funding for the project.
“The Friend of Fellsmere Heights want to apply for Community Preservation Act [CPA] funds through both Malden and Medford,” said Robert Doolittle of Malden, vice president of the Friends. “However, we cannot do that without a letter of support from MelroseWakefield Healthcare.”
Robert Brogna, a spokesman for MelroseWakefield Healthcare, said since the hospital group already has an agreement with the Fellsmere Housing Group, it can’t give the Friends the necessary approval to apply for CPA funds.
This stalemate leaves the neighborhood, called Malden’s West End, in limbo and all parties frustrated.
On May 8, MelroseWakefield Healthcare resubmitted a subdivision proposal to the Malden Zoning Board to extend the development timetable.
“These filings were made to preserve the existing zoning and property rights related to the site, and are consistent with prior filings made to preserve property rights,” stated Brogna.
Doolittle is focused on preserving open space, not property rights.
“Malden has the fifth-least amount of open space in Massachusetts. We cannot give up this opportunity to preserve the site,” he said.
While there is little agreement over the future, all parties agree that it is time to move forward, especially as the cost to demolish the hospital building is rising rapidly.
“A year ago the cost of demolition was $4.5 million. Now it will likely be over $5 million,” said Tony Green, one of the managers for the Fellsmere Housing Group. “We are frustrated. There is no other plan out there that is economically viable. The development would mean $1.5 million a year in tax revenue for the city of Malden and in addition, we have offered $500,000 in a mitigation payment to the city to use as they see fit.”
In June, the Friends expect to unveil three detailed, community-driven optional proposals developed by the architectural students.
Meanwhile, the hospital buildings continue to crumble.
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson remains hopeful that “a solution to the problem will happen sooner rather than later. It will take continued hard work and open communications, but I am certain there will be a positive outcome for everybody involved.”
Linda Greenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.