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Malden

Plan to relocate government center moves forward

The city of Malden is close to an agreement to sell its government center and police station for redevelopment, and the deal would include a requirement that the city leave the site by the end of 2015, officials said this week.

“We’re on the clock now,” Mayor Gary Christenson said in a phone interview. “We really have to make this happen in order to meet the expectations of the developer and the community.”

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Relocating City Hall — which currently blocks Pleasant Street through Malden Square — and redeveloping its current parcel at 200 Pleasant St. has been one of Christenson’s priorities since he took office in 2012. The efforts began to pick up steam in December, when the City Council voted to authorize Christenson to sell the current location to Jefferson Apartment Group, and then in January authorized Christenson to designate 100 Dartmouth St. — currently a city-owned parking lot — as the future location of City Hall.

The lot is behind the Malden Post Office, which faces Mountain Avenue.

The deal to sell the Pleasant Street land to the Jefferson group has not yet been finalized, and Christenson would not disclose financial details. But he said the agreement would include a requirement that the city vacate both the government and police sites by Dec. 31, 2015. The Malden Police Department headquarters is on the Pleasant Street parcel.

The Jefferson offer was selected from four that were offered to the city after a request for proposals was announced in May. The plans were vetted by a group of city and redevelopment authority employees and a five-member City Council committee, which both identified the Jefferson Apartment Group offering as the most favorable.

The proposal calls for the current government center to be demolished. Pleasant Street, which has been blocked since the government center was built in the 1970s, would be reconnected, and two mixed-use buildings would be constructed across from each other, Christenson said. The development would feature 20,000 square feet of retail space and 245 apartment units, he said.

The city was not actively seeking to relocate the Police Department headquarters, but all of the proposals offered called for it to be included, Christenson said.

A location for a new police station hasn’t been identified, but Christenson said the city is looking to place it along Route 60, making it more centralized to the city. There are no municipally owned parcels that would be suitable for the new station, Christenson said.

The Malden Redevelopment Authority has issued requests for proposals for an architectural firm for both projects, and for a project manager. The proposals from architects are due Feb. 20 and from potential project managers Feb. 27. Decisions are expected to be made within weeks of submission, said Deborah Burke, the redevelopment authority’s executive director.

Progress will have to come quickly in order for the new buildings to be ready by the end of 2015, Burke said. The city and redevelopment authority consulted with engineers, construction managers, and lawyers before determining the deadline was achievable, she said.

“It’s really a tough timeline in terms of public construction,” Burke said. “The goal is achievable, but we won’t be able to sit on the proposals for a while; there will be a quick turnaround.”

The process of relocating City Hall has been the subject of some contention and changes in direction. Following a request for proposals in 2012, Christenson had advocated for the city to lease office space instead of building a new City Hall, and to develop a site on Eastern Avenue into a new public works yard that would also house some municipal offices.

But some city councilors pushed against that plan, and in May 2013, Christenson asked the council to seek proposals from developers to either construct a new government center at 100 Dartmouth St., or offer options at other sites that would be purchased by the city.

A sign of progress came in November, when the state’s Department of Housing and Economic Development awarded the city $3 million to use for demolishing and redeveloping the Pleasant Street site.

City Councilor Jim Nestor, who serves on the five-member council committee reviewing proposals, said there had been significant strides lately.

“It’s a slow process, but I can’t foresee it turning back at this point,” Nestor said. “We have so much momentum moving this forward.”

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