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Medfield Town Meeting Votes on Future of Medfield State Hospital

Medfield Anthology 4

At MAPC, civic participation is the backbone of planning. That’s why our Medfield Creative Placemaking project centers community engagement and activation at the core of efforts to build public education and make meaning out of the town-owned site of the former Medfield State Hospital.

MAPC is providing technical assistance to the Town of Medfield to facilitate the activation of the Medfield State Hospital campus with placemaking activities that will set the course for future creative uses at the site. As part of the project, MAPC Artist-in-Residence Hortense Gerardo created the Medfield Anthology, a site-informed walking play based on archival research and original interviews with people affiliated with the former hospital.

MAPC’s community engagement efforts were put to the test on November 18, 2019, when a special Town Meeting was held to vote on two proposals which would have direct consequences on the project.

Medfield TV has been a partner of the placemaking project, documenting all of the activities that have happened on the site ever since the Town purchased the property. (Click here to see a list of TV shows they have produced.) At Town Meeting, Article 1 concerned the appropriation of $73,497.77 from the “Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) Access and Cable Related Fund” to Medfield TV to provide local cable access services, equipment, and programming for the Town of Medfield.

Article 2 was a vote to amend the Code of the Town of Medfield Chapter 300 Zoning so that the bylaws governing the Medfield State Hospital campus would align with the recommendations of the MSH Strategic Reuse Master Plan (2018) Executive Summary, including stipulations to allow a mix of housing types, commercial spaces, restaurants, small businesses, and a cultural center at Lee Chapel. Without this vote secured, the redevelopment potential of the site would be set back indefinitely, putting the historic buildings at risk of demolition or decay.

After an inconclusive voice vote and show of hands, a standing count was administered, showing that both Article 1 and Article 2 passed. The count for Article 2 was 651 in favor to 295 dissenting, meaning that it passed with nine votes in favor, pushing it over the two-thirds threshold with 68.8 percent of the vote. During the tally, numerous people were live-texting updates to MAPC Artist-in-Residence, Hortense Gerardo, showing how her project in writing the Medfield Anthology has brought the importance of this site to life for so many people in town.

While not explicitly advocating either way on the Town Meeting vote, the Medfield Anthology (the walking play created by Hortense Gerardo) and the rest of the placemaking activities that have arisen out of the MAPC Creative Placemaking project are helping Town residents make meaning from the site. The installations and events help people connect to its historical legacy, and to see its future potential filled with people and activities.

The Medfield Anthology is being staged as part of a larger Porchfest event with additional musical acts on May 2, 2020. This performance will bring people from the Town of Medfield together to celebrate this special site and will invite people from throughout the region to enjoy it as well. The event will prove that activities at a future cultural center will be able to attract a wide audience and the act of using the historic buildings as performance stages will form a foundational activity that can continue to support this future cultural center before, during, and after construction is complete.

For more information about the Special Town Meeting vote, view: https://medfield.wickedlocal.com/news/20191118/medfield-passes-new-state-hospital-zoning

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