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Teen center planned for downtown Malden

Posted by Matt Byrne  April 24, 2012 05:00 PM

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The location of a proposed teen center, at 1 Salem St,, is steps from Malden High School and downtown transportation links.

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said Tuesday the city will endeavor to create a dedicated teen center that could give hundreds of youngsters a safe, productive place to go after school.

Tentatively called the Malden Teen Enrichment Center, a task force of 13 planners recommended the city rent about 5,500 square feet at 1 Salem St,, steps from Malden High School at the intersection of Salem  and Ferry streets.

But before the center can open in September, task force chair Cathy MacMullin said proponents must raise at least $30,000 to cover the capital expenses of opening a permanent, specialized facility.

During six weeks of study, the planners examined four other available properties, evaluated seven teen programs in surrounding communities, and surveyed students and community leaders before setting their sights on the corner building. A series of banks has occupied the first floor, the most recent a former DanversBank branch that closed over two years ago.

At full capacity, the center could accommodate up to 250 high school students at a time, and would offer a structured and friendly environment for kids to study, hang out with friends, and play sports and games.

"It's a marvelous location," said MacMullin, who is leading an 18-person task force that has worked since February to chart a path for the center. MacMullin, who cofounded 16 successful teen night events since May 2011, said a dedicated facility would help constructively fill the critical hours between the last school bell and when students' parents arrive home.

Planners pegged operating costs at nearly $150,000 per year, including an estimated $59,950 in rent, according to the task force report. MacMullin said the rental estimate is generous, and that she hopes to work with the building's owner to find an amenable cost.

Flanked by the planning group, Christenson said at the briefing he would include funding for the center in the forthcoming fiscal 2013 budget, expected to be released in mid-May, and that his administration would make it a prioritized program going forward.

The curved two-story building has sat vacant for about two years, and was attractive to the group because of its proximity to the high school and transportation lines, the mayor and others said, key requirements for a facility that must serve the entire city.

"The owner of One Salem Street expressed a genuine desire for Malden to locate their teen center in the building," the report said. "The task force recommends the city open negotiations with the property owner to explore the possibility that a mutual arrangement can be reached."

Christenson said the success of the center will rest on cooperation from all corners of the community. Currently the Malden YWCA and YMCA, as well as public school officials, have agreed to help coordinate programming for the space. So far the Trade Employers' Association of Boston has agreed to donate time and labor to reconfigure the building's interior.

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