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Cambridge oks CASPAR, MIT campus streets pact

The Cambridge City Council Monday night approved , 8-1, MIT's initiative to build a facility for the homeless in return for control of segments of three city streets and sidewalks along part of Vassar Street.

"A home at last. A home at last. A home at last!" said Richard M. Brescia, president of the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Rehabilitation (CASPAR), after the vote. CASPAR has been seeking a permanent home since 1974 and has been housed in temporary trailers on MIT's land at 240 Albany Street since 1979.

"I'm absolutely grateful to President Vest for his gracious offer, to Mayor Reeves for appointing such a dedicated commission, and to the council for offering us the chance for a new day in Cambridge," Mr. Brescia said.

The vote came three weeks after MIT President Charles M. Vest wrote the city councilors, offering to build CASPAR a 12,000 square foot, 55-bed facility on the land at 240 Albany Street. CASPAR will have a 20-year renewable lease on the land at $1 a year. The proposal is estimated to cost MIT $1.8 to $2 million.

The Feb. 8 initiative brought an affirmative same-day response from the three city councilors on the nine-member Special Committee on CASPAR Siting Team. Councilors Jonathan Myers (chair), Sheila T. Russell and Alice Wolf wrote President Vest, "We particularly hearken to your words emphasizing 'a new era in town gown relations.' We believe that such a new era is not only desirable but within our reach."

At the March 1 City Council meeting, Councilors Myers, Wolf, Russell and Mayor Reeves publicly praised Dr. Vest and MIT. "The offering of 240 Albany Street by Charles Vest was an important breakthrough," said Councilor Myers.

"MIT has a marvelous president in Charles Vest. And that is really something!" said Mayor Reeves.

Councilor Timothy Toomey of East Cambridge, who urged that the vote be delayed until March 15, voted against the proposal.

Ronald P. Suduiko, assistant to the president, said. "I'm proud of MIT and the community leaders for forging a solution to this difficult problem.... I'm pleased to have worked with people to bring this to a successful conclusion."

In exchange for MIT's public service of building the CASPAR facility on MIT land and leasing it to CASPAR for $1 a year for a 20-year renewable lease, the City (1) will transfer ownership to MIT of the campus segment of Amherst Street west of Massachusetts Avenue; (2) MIT will lease the sidewalks of Vassar Street west of Massachusetts Avenue to Audrey Street at the Westgate apartments for landscaping and a bikeway easement, change the parking arrangement from diagonal to parallel parking, and maintain the present two 12-foot automobile lanes; (3) MIT will lease Carleton Street with an easement for a combination of two pedestrian bridges and/or tunnels; (4) MIT will lease Hayward Street with an easement for either a pedestrian bridge or a tunnel, a pedestrian walkway, and closing of the street.

MIT will pay the city $3 a year for the 20-year, renewable leases on Carleton, Hayward and Vassar. The easements will be granted in perpetuity within 60 days on Carleton and Hayward Streets.

On Vassar Street, the easements will be granted within 20 years or upon MIT's conveyance of an easement on 75,000 square feet of MIT land parcels involved in a 1988 agreement to construct the Waverly Street connector through MIT's property. This agreement includes the eventual demolition of 38 Henry Street, which is currently leased to Polaroid.

Ten persons spoke in favor of the agreement, and eight opposed it. Those favoring the move included two Cambridge residents who work at MIT, Patricia McCosco and Jennifer Combs. Others who spoke in favor included three members of the CASPAR board--Judge Lawrence Feloney, Mr. Brescia, and Bruce Houghton.

Opposing the agreement were a number of Cambridgeport residents, including Bill Cavellini, Cathy Hoffman, Bob LaTremouille, Geneva Malenfant, and Bill Noble.

Bob Boulreice, a Central Square resident who had opposed the previous MIT initiative of siting CASPAR at 380 Green Street, was a member of the CASPAR Siting Committee who spoke in favor of the agreement.

"We truly hope that this is a new day in MIT-City relations," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 3, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 24).

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