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    Breakthrough in Malden roadblock is underway

    MALDEN, MA - 5/11/2017:A sign from the First CongregationalChurch in Malden. Crews have begun demolition on the old police station and City Hall, with an old church coming next. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo) SECTION: REGIONAL TOPIC 21nomalden
    David L Ryan/Globe Staff
    A goodbye sign in front of the First Congregational Church in Malden, one of the buildings that is coming down.

    For 42 years, commuters exiting the Malden Center Orange Line T stop have been greeted with a fortress of red brick and tinted windows.

    That building — Malden’s goverment center — cut Pleasant Street into two sections and blocked the city’s central shopping and dining district, Malden Square, from potential customers.

    Over the past several weeks, commuters have been greeted with something new: The sight and sound of crews demolishing the hulking complex. If all goes according to plan, Malden will have a reconnected Pleasant Street by the spring of 2019.

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    Demolition for the 30-month project got underway in April. After the city hall, police station, and adjacent First Church of Malden come down this summer, crews will start construction on two new buildings on either side of Pleasant Street. In all, developer Jefferson Apartment Group will spend $100 million to construct 320 residential units, seven first-floor retail spaces, and parking. A pedestrian bridge will connect the two buildings, according to Chris Burchard, Jefferson senior vice president.

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    “It’s the creation of a gateway, which is important to us,” Burchard said.

    The project’s 25,000 square feet set aside for retail space will ring garages hidden inside the building. The two parking levels will provide 240 private spaces for residents and 80 public spaces for shoppers.

    “There’s a larger retail space we’re going to try and underwrite with a grocer,” Burchard said.

    Jefferson also will create the shell of the new, 42,000 square-foot Malden city hall, which will be located in one of the buildings. Malden will seek bids from firms to complete the interior once those plans are finalized, according to Mayor Gary Christenson’s office. The city plans to move into the space by late 2019.

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    The existing government center complex was built for $10 million in 1974. The building bisects Pleasant Street, forcing drivers onto Eastern Avenue and cutting off the city’s central shopping district from the MBTA station that opened in 1975.

    Envisioned as a pedestrian mall, the predicted throngs swarming local shops never materialized, and the city has spent nearly two decades planning to get rid of the massive brick edifice.

    MALDEN, MA - 5/11/2017: After years of planning, Malden is tearing down its old city hall complex and reconnecting its downtown area to the Malden Center T stop and Pleasant Street. Crews have begun demolition on the old police station and City Hall, with an old church coming next. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo) SECTION: REGIONAL TOPIC 21nomalden
    David L Ryan/Globe Staff
    The partially demolished police station (left) in front of the former city hall.

    Roberto Scalese can be reached at rscalese@gmail.com.