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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Special Correspondent
The Medfield State Hospital (MSH) shut down in 2003. Since then, the property has become Medfield’s go-to locale for dog-walking, sports, and jogs. For years, the town has wrangled with the fate of the open acres left behind in the wake of MSH’s closure.
On August 20, Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee released the Medfield State Hospital Strategic Reuse Master Plan, outlining plans for handling the property. The plan notes three goals the town seeks to complete with its development of the property: “maintain and enhance the character and values of the Town of Medfield and its residents," “address town housing needs," and ensure the plan is in the town’s economic interests.
Steve Nolan, a member of the State Hospital Advisory committee and the chair of the Medfield State Hospital Master Planning committee, notes that the biggest change to the town will be the construction of new housing.
“I don’t see a fundamental change in the Town as a result of the hospital redevelopment. Our plan calls for mostly residential development, with about 300 new units of housing, which would be an increase of about 7 percent in the Town’s housing stock. This will happen gradually over a number of years, so the impact will be spread out over time,” says Nolan.
“The cultural component of the plan would bring a terrific amenity to the community, which we hope will become a draw for potential business,” he continues. “That will help diversify the Town’s tax base a bit and bring other types of uses to the hospital property. The development will also help bring some much-needed housing diversity to the Town, with some senior housing options, housing for Millenials and empty-nesters, and a significant component of affordable housing that will help the Town either reach or maintain its 10 percent goal for affordable housing.”
Nolan notes that the plan calls for continued recreational use of the property, in addition to the development of new housing.
“The public’s desire to maintain public access to the property came through loud and clear in our public sessions, so we have taken pains to develop a plan that allows for such access,” Nolan notes. “For instance, the location of the cultural center at the Lee Chapel is intended to create a welcoming environment in the core campus for townspeople. We also included space for community gardens, which will also bring the public to the site. The plan calls for a significant amount of open space and a trail network, and we hope that the implementation committee will include requirements for public access in any disposition of the site. The plan will only fulfill its potential if the Town is vigilant in including these public amenities in the conditions of any disposition and in enforcing them rigorously.”
There is still much to be done about Medfield State Hospital, but the Strategic Reuse Master Plan is certain to bring a measure of clarity going forward.
The complete Medfield State Hospital Strategic Reuse Master Plan can be accessed at http://tiny.cc/mshmasterplan. Copies are also available at Town Hall and the Medfield Public Library. The Master Planning Committee will also be manning booth 80 at Medfield Day.