The Commercial Street Corridor is a 122.6-acre area in Malden, Massachusetts, south of Malden Center and bordering both sides of the Malden River. Similar to other areas that are primarily industrial throughout the metropolitan Boston region, the Corridor is under redevelopment pressure. In December 2014, the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency (MassDevelopment) established a Gateway Cities Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) District in the Cities of Malden and Everett. The TDI District, which includes the Corridor, allowed Malden and Everett to receive directed regional planning and implementation assistance to advance their district visions. As part of the TDI program, MassDevelopment, Malden, and Everett convened an Urban Land Institute Technical Advisory Panel (ULI-TAP) in June 2015. The ULI-TAP focused on industrial land development in metropolitan Boston’s urban core and developed several recommendations for the cities to further develop their regional presence and identity. The ULI-TAP suggested using the Malden River as the organizer of development and identity. This Malden Commercial Street Corridor Framework Plan (Framework Plan) builds upon the ULI-TAP Report’s recommendations regarding development and land use within the Corridor.
The Commercial Street Corridor Framework Plan seeks to:
- Define strategies to support diversified job retention and creation in the Commercial Street Corridor.
- Identify short-term and long-term strategies for development of, access to, and creation of public open space surrounding the Malden River.
- Identify possibilities for the relocation of the existing Department of Public Works (DPW) facility elsewhere in the City and implications if the current property becomes available for development.
- Understand how known environmental conditions may constrain certain types of development and define approaches to remediation, including both public and private actions.
- Incorporate the appropriate recommendations from the ULI-TAP Report.
- Provide an implementation plan that assigns responsibilities for next steps and identifies funding strategies with those steps.
The Corridor could benefit from additional actions by the City, the MRA, and relevant state agencies (including Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP)) to support the goals identified during this planning process. Future economic development in the area is based on two strategies:
- Supporting and retaining existing businesses.
- Attracting new businesses that complement the existing clusters and provide well-paying jobs for Malden residents.
The findings address the four categories of recommended actions: Economic Development, Placemaking, Regulatory, and Infrastructure.
- Economic Development – The Corridor has a number of assets that make it a competitive place for businesses to locate. Businesses cited the Corridor’s location, access to customers, and relatively affordable rents and property taxes as some of its advantages.
- Placemaking – Restaurants and retail/service related businesses can support both employees and local residents, creating an area that is active beyond the working day. Events that bring people to the area at night would contribute to the desirability of working in the area. Connecting the riverfront with a system of paths for pedestrians and bicyclists is an amenity for employees traveling between work and home or taking a midday break. A path system is also an amenity for current and future residents. Linking these paths to parking can connect businesses, employees, and visitors during working hours, at night, and on the weekend, thus creating efficiencies in shared use of infrastructure.
- Regulatory – Allowing new uses in the area (such as residential with an attached retail and/or office component, hotel, and research and development) and streamlining the permitting process would make it easier for businesses to invest or reinvest in the area.
- Infrastructure – The recommended physical improvements and regulatory changes support these goals by creating an active environment with amenities that are attractive to employees: places to eat, shop, and relax. Amenities would serve to attract employees who want to address their personal needs – child or adult care, health appointments, dry-cleaning, general errands, food – in the same area as their office.
The recommend actions to implement the goals of this Framework Plan build upon the ULI-TAP Report’s recommendations and the City’s goals. They are the result of the research and analyses of current economic and physical conditions, as well as feedback from the community members and businesses who participated in focus group meetings, public meetings, and surveys. The implementation actions are grouped into the categories described below:
- Economic Development – The economic development findings and recommended actions are intended to support business attraction, retention, and expansion needed within the Corridor to promote job creation. For example, contacting companies within the industries prioritized in the cluster analysis in Section II: Economic Analysis and Recommendations and introducing those companies to this Framework Plan increases awareness of the Corridor and its attractiveness as a place to relocate or expand their operations. Targeting those industries with high growth potential and well-paying jobs appropriate for Malden residents will also create additional tax revenue for the City and diversify the current industry mix.
- Placemaking – The recommended actions include strengthening the connection between the community and the places they share through a variety of placemaking efforts. These efforts will reinforce the Corridor as a destination for companies seeking to expand and attract employees who value the amenities this Corridor could offer. For instance, gateway treatments at the entrances to the Corridor and showcasing locally-made products would help build the physical, cultural, and social identity of the Corridor. After-work and weekend programs, such as movie nights or food truck festivals, would attract employees and community members to the Corridor outside of traditional business hours. Ensuring that such efforts are community-driven will improve the sense of place and community participation.
- Regulatory – The recommended actions regarding regulatory controls can be linked with economic development and infrastructure. Zoning controls the physical character of an area by regulating the types of uses, the physical relationship of buildings to each other and to the street. The permitting and approval processes can make investing in an area more difficult if the zoning controls and processes are not aligned with the desired character of the area. Updating the City’s Zoning Ordinances would ensure future land uses throughout the Corridor are consistent with the community’s vision and the findings of this Framework Plan. Reviewing existing and future Chapter 91 licenses for compliance and consistency with the community’s vision for the Malden River would increase public access by ensuring that the public access required by Chapter 91 is built into the City’s approval, permitting, and enforcement processes.
- Infrastructure – The recommended actions for physical improvements are designed to encourage investment either by improving public infrastructure or by creating a pathway for future investment by others through strategic development projects. Modified bus routes or a shuttle would increase the convenience of access to areas along Commercial Street. In addition, creating a safer environment for all forms of transportation (e.g., buses, trucks, cars, pedestrians, bicycles) will increase the accessibility of the Corridor’s businesses for employees and customers. Expanding the green space along the streets, parking lots, and riverfront would provide additional areas for stormwater infiltration, help reduce pollutants entering the Malden River, and create a more welcoming environment for employees and community members. The City and MRA could create within the Corridor either a DIF district to address infrastructure needs or implement a TIF program that offers tax incentives to individual developers in exchange for making infrastructure improvements.
This project was sponsored by the Office of Malden’s Mayor Gary Christenson, the Malden Redevelopment Authority and MassDevelopment, and prepared by Harriman and ICIC.
Download the full report to read the complete findings and recommendations.