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 River's Edge park called 'first-class'
 

 

River's Edge park called 'first-class'

 

Officials tout milestone in revitalization effort

By John Laidler, Globe Correspondent | September 6, 2007

 

The construction of a new public park on the Malden River is being hailed by local officials as a milestone in their decade-old effort to revitalize former industrial land on both sides of the river.

Preotle, Lane & Associates, the New York-based master developer of the River's Edge project, is nearing completion of the 10-acre park, which includes looped paths, lights, granite walls, and newly planted trees and shrubs, as well as a boathouse constructed last year by Tufts University for its crew program.

River's Edge is a joint development effort by Everett, Malden, and Medford to bring jobs and recreational opportunities to 200 acres of riverfront land in the three cities.

Apart from the state's reconstruction of the roadway bordering the park -- Commercial Street in Malden and River's Edge Drive (formerly Corporation Way) in Medford -- the construction of the park, now about 85 percent complete, marks the first tangible sign of activity for the project. The park is within the 30-acre Medford portion of the site, whose redevelopment marks the first phase of River's Edge.

"It's truly a first-class riverfront park," said Malden Mayor Richard C. Howard, noting the tons of fill and old tires that have been removed from the site, replaced by "beautiful pathways and a brand new landscaping plan and granite seating areas." He said the opening up of the land has yielded "just an incredible scenic vista" of the river.

Mayor Michael J. McGlynn of Medford said that the park "looks magnificent," noting that it has as many as 10,000 shrubs, along with grass and trees. He also noted the 2-foot-wide row of rosebushes adjacent to the river that he said serves both an aesthetic function and a practical one of keeping people from venturing too close to the water.

Even as they celebrate creation of the waterfront park --and the pending construction of a smaller athletic field area abutting the roadway on the Medford site --officials from the three cities are awaiting what they hope will be the start soon of the project's first building construction.

Plans for phase one call for the development of three commercial buildings totaling 440,000 square feet, and of an approximately 200-unit residential building. John Preotle, a principal of Preotle, could not be reached this week to discuss the project. But Howard said the developer has targeted the end of the year to begin construction, and there are favorable market signs that it could happen.

"I think the market, especially on the commercial end, is probably as good as it's been in the last decade or so," Howard said. "There are lots of stories about space tightening in Boston . . . so we hope that there is enough of the market pushing out this way to be able to fill up a location like ours."

McGlynn said he anticipates a "positive announcement" in the next 30 days from Preotle about the site's development.

The Mystic Valley Development Commission, the entity created by the three cities to oversee the project, on Aug. 28 approved changes to the plans for the open space portions of phase one, including an increase in the planned size of the river park from 7.5 acres to 10 acres.

The commission is holding a public hearing next week, Wednesday at 9 a.m., in Medford City Hall on overall revisions to the site plan for phase one, which will require commission approval.

In addition to the changes to the open space plans, those revisions include shifting the site of the future buildings farther from the river, and increasing two of the commercial buildings to six stories. Previously, all three would have been four stories, according to Deborah Burke, a spokeswoman for Howard. When they began their collaboration in 1994, the three cities planned to create TeleCom City, a center of collaboration between industry, government, and the academic world in the field of telecommunications.

 In 2004, the commission shifted the focus to encompass a broader array of high-tech businesses, plus housing. The change was prompted by the downturn in telecommunications and the Romney administration's request that housing be included in the project. The development's name was changed to reflect the new focus and to draw attention to the river, whose cleanup and conversion to a recreational asset has been a key facet of the project.

The commission and Preotle signed a new agreement in 2005 incorporating the changes to the plans for the project's first phase -- including the addition of housing and the Tufts boathouse -- since an original development agreement in 2000.

In 2005, the commission finished acquiring all 30 acres of the Medford land, paving the way for development to proceed. The future of phase two --involving the redevelopment of the Everett side of the river -- has encountered a potential hurdle in the possible sale of land owned by General Electric to two steel companies.

According to Everett community development director Marzie Galazka, GE has told the city it plans to close on the sale of about 32 acres to Central Steel Supply Co., of Somerville, and the Duncan Group, an Everett steel galvanizing company, on Sept. 26.

Galazka said the city has not been presented with any plans for the site, but noted that a steel business does not fit with the types of uses envisioned for the River's Edge site. She said those uses, which are outlined in an overlay zone adopted for the site, call for multifamily development, retail, offices, and light industry.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.