The old Malden Hospital site, a 21-acre parcel on a hill with views of the Boston skyline, is for sale.
Hallmark Health Corp. of Melrose is seeking a buyer for the site, after a deal to sell the property to Deaconess Abundant Life Communities of Concord fell apart in June. Deaconess was unable to obtain financing for a 301-unit senior housing development. Hallmark now hopes to lure another developer, an official said.
‘‘We are actively looking for a buyer for this property with the hope that an assisted living or senior housing community is viable for this location,’’ said Rick Pozniak, a Hallmark spokesman. ‘‘We have a number of feelers out to developers both in the state and across the country.’’
But attracting a buyer could be a tough sell, one industry watcher noted.
Developers of senior housing have suffered the same financing troubles as other sectors of the nation’s struggling housing market. ‘‘There is very little construction capital out there now,’’ said David Schless, president of American Seniors Housing Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents companies that develop and finance senior housing. ‘‘Unless you have locked in your financing, very little is being built right now.’’
Pozniak would not disclose Hallmark’s asking price for the site on Hospital Road. The property, including the original six-story hospital building and land, is assessed at $10.1 million, according to city records.
Mayor Richard C. Howard said he favors senior housing for the site. ‘‘If Hallmark can find a developer in the same vein, that would be ideal,’’ he said. ‘‘There is a need for that type of housing in the city.’’
A recent neighborhood meeting to discuss the future of the site drew about 40 residents of the West End, the neighborhood in which the property lies. Hallmark organized the meeting with city leaders. The Deaconess project was reviewed, and residents were asked to suggest future options. At least one resident is not convinced senior housing is the best fit.
‘‘I don’t want the community to be saddled that is the highest and best use as defined by [city officials],’’ said Mark Guenard, who lives on West Border Road across from the site.
The site is zoned for single-family homes. The hospital, built in the early 1950s was allowed as a nonconforming use. Any other use, such as senior housing, requires a special permit or variance from city zoning ordinances, according to city officials.
Guenard believes that the special permit granted to Deaconess is no longer valid, citing a city ordinance. ‘‘I contend that since the property has been vacant, the property must revert to single-family use,’’ he said. ‘‘One of the things I believe should be on the table is single-family housing.’’
City Planner Michelle Romero said the special permit is still valid. ‘‘The permit runs with the land,’’ she said. ‘‘It did not have any conditions on it making it specific to Deaconess.’’
Under city zoning, 75 to 105 single-family homes could be built on the property, depending on the lot size, according to the Planning Department.
‘‘I’m sure they’d be high-end homes,’’ said Ward 3 Councilor Paul DiPietro, whose ward includes the hospital. ‘‘I would think with the view of Boston that is up here, it would be one of the most sought after sites on the North Shore.’’
Traffic and density are residents’ top concerns about any new development, DiPietro said. The site, which has become a magnet for illegal dumping, must also be maintained, he said. ‘‘It’s almost like a vacant house. It’s not a usable building anymore.’’
Pozniak said Hallmark will continue to work with residents and city officials. Meetings will be held every three months to keep people in the loop. Hallmark also will keep the area clean. ‘‘Our crews have started to go by daily,’’ he said.
But Pozniak said it could be a while before a future use is clear. ‘‘You’re dealing with a very tough housing and development market,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t expect to see results overnight. It may take as long as a year for us to enter into a constructive dialogue with a potential developer.’’
Kathy McCabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.