By Bob Doolittle, Malden Resident, on behalf of the Fellsmere Heights Vision Team
The meeting flyer was entitled: “Alternative Proposal for Fellsmere Heights.” It was a very exciting meeting, a lot of fun to moderate, and very productive. With this report I would like to give an official debriefing to this emerging community of ours. I will list a quick summary of the events of the morning and then my comment on what I think we accomplished.
-- Turnout was about 30, a good mixture of Malden/Medford, maybe 60/40?
-- The Malden Observer did send a reporter -- who stayed the whole time.
-- I started with this good news from a recent meeting about state efforts to preserve green space: The Governor has made urban parks one of the four top priorities for his administrations. He wants what we want!
-- Jessica Wolff, who is a neighbor and landscape architect, then presented an on screen showing of her mixed use alternative proposal for the 18 acres of Fellsmere Heights.
-- Steven Keleti gave us some preliminary remarks on the fiscal feasibility of community use rather than commercial use of the Hospital Site and promised a detailed budget for next time. We followed up with Q&A.
-- Councilor at Large, Craig Spadafora -- calling upon his long involvement with the hospital site and its current owner, Hallmark Health -- said he’d “love to see a park up there,” but argued that it was not financially realistic. Steven answered his facts point for point, but there was no time to conclude the question: “Those issues will have to be resolved another time. We’re here today to bring out the ideas of people in this room.” It is clear we need to set time aside to discuss these issues at our next meeting.
-- We then broke up into three groups and did a quick roundtable answering three questions
What elements in Jessica’s proposal did you find most important?
What elements did you find not so important?
What was missing that you would like to add?
-- After 20 minutes a spokesperson from each group reported back their findings to the large group. The reports contained a lot of passion and were inspirational to hear. There were both recurring and divergent themes. Jessica has taken all that input back to the drawing boards.
-- We will have a Saturday followup meeting in mid March to review the updated vision of our “the alternative” which reflects the wishes of the meeting and to be sent in via firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- We learned from Councilor Spadafora that The City intends to have a third public meeting with developers probably in April. Prior to that meeting he said the councilors would schedule a city sponsored meeting so we can present our Fellsmere Heights alternative proposal to the people of Malden and Medford. He promised that both meetings would take place at 7 p.m. so that this time 9 to 5 working people can attend. That small change will do a lot to undo some negative community feelings over the timing of the 5:30 public meeting on February 11.
-- These upcoming meetings mean our next alternative vision Meeting in mid March will have to finalize our proposal and finalize an exact budget for what it will cost.
-- Dates and locations of all three meetings are to be announced.
-- To close the meeting we showed the new website, handed out copies of our petition to elected leaders in our two city halls, the state house, and Washington D.C. -- and introduced the online version of the petition.
Here is my take on what we accomplished. Two things were different coming out of that meeting. First, everyone’s voice was heard, and there was exhilaration and determination in the air. One felt that the will and heart of the people had found expression, and that a way will be found to say No to the commercial hopes of the developer and Yes to the hopes of the community.
Second, I felt Councilor Spadafora’s attendance at that meeting was an act of courage on his part and a real sign of respect for what we are doing. The tone of exchange with him went from adversarial at first to informational and collaborative by the end. He and the councilors have struggled with this hospital site dilemma for a long time. He shared that struggle informally in lots of discussions with us, and I think he went away feeling we could be a help not a hindrance.
At the end, he was sufficiently moved by what he saw to do two surprising things. One was to offer a city sponsored meeting to allow us to go public with our vision. Secondly, when we were about to pass the hat to pay our $75 bill for use of the church hall, he said, “No, let me cover that.” That day we took a giant step toward the day when city hall and spokespersons representing the needs of Malden and Medford people can join forces to do something great with Fellsmere Heights.
Many thanks to Josh Velasquez for setting up this web site as our point of contact and communication with one another.