By Juhi Varma
Monday night’s Field of Dreams public hearing drew over a hundred curious and interested Malden residents. Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and the members of the Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) discussed the proposed ballpark and took notes as residents came up to the podium to ask questions and share opinions.
The hearing began with a presentation on the proposed independent league, state-of-the-art ballpark with 5,600 seats and a disabled-friendly design. It has been a full year since the MRA board of directors chose the Field of Dreams proposal for the redevelopment of the National Grid-owned parcel at 100 Commercial Street. Its construction will affect the four parcels located within the boundaries of Commercial, Centre, Canal, and Charles Streets.
Eighteen residents came up to the podium to voice their concerns, most of which revolved around the traffic and noise such a ballpark would bring.
“I’m very concerned about the traffic. I’m already fighting a never-ending battle with people going to the courthouse, the T-stop and people who don’t understand the concept of ‘no parking between signs,’” said the first speaker, Judith Allonby, a resident at 7 Rockland Park. “Parking issues have already caused safety and security issues in my neighborhood.”
“First point, traffic snafus—we really need to know what the traffic is going to be like for the major thoroughfares,” said resident Mike McDougall. “The speculation of some is that it would take a helicopter for people to get from one part of the city to another when there’s a game!” He continued, “The real issue is police and fire protection during an event.”
The presentation also emphasized that as well as being affordable family entertainment the field would give Malden a huge business and economic boost. Executive Director of the Malden Chamber of Commerce, Ted Coates, spoke about the abutting properties. “Pretty much all chamber members would love to see a successful ball field,” Coates began. “But it also has to be a wonderful thing for the people who have to move out… If it’s a good deal for National Grid, it has to be a good deal for the abutters… The mayor has offered to facilitate a meeting between the abutters and the developer. The MRA appeared before the chamber board in November and gave us a commitment that there would be no action on eminent domains until the negotiations were complete. We’re going to hope that this works out for the best. These three abutters are long time chamber members and businesses in Malden, and we want to see them treated fairly.”
MRA Executive Director Stephen Wishoski stated that these issues will be discussed in an Urban Renewal Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, which are being ironed out by the city. Their goal is to have the documents before the Malden City Council by spring.
“I thought the public hearing accomplished our main objective, which was to hear firsthand from our residents; many…were in support of the proposal but understandably had concerns about traffic impact and noise. This forum allows the Mayor’s Citizens Advisory Committee to consider these issues as the project moves forward.” said the mayor afterwards.