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Advocates, city mark shelter opening

"This is such a great day for Cambridge!" said Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves as he, MIT President Charles M. Vest and homeless shelter officials formally opened a $2 million, 55-bed shelter built by MIT on land once planned for a college dormitory.

About 250 people jammed into the lobby of the Emergency Service Center of CASPAR (the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Rehabilitation) at 240 Albany Street in Cambridge on June 6 to applaud happily for the shelter, which will take the place of three CASPAR trailers which have been used as a homeless shelter on the MIT site since 1979.

When a proposal was made more than a year ago to move the homeless shelter to Central Square, it prompted a lengthy civic battle. It was resolved when MIT agreed to build the shelter on the present site on Albany Street, which college planners had designated for a future campus dormitory. The solution was hailed by Mayor Reeves and President Vest as a new era in town-gown relations.

"It was a very, very simple recipe we followed" to resolve the situation. "Put people of good faith in one room and good things happen," Mayor Reeves said, paying special tribute to "a great man, a very esteemed and gentle individual who is president of MIT, Chuck Vest."

Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy said the letter from Dr. Vest committing to build the center for CASPAR in exchange for rights to improve some city streets within the MIT campus was "the best letter I've received in my 20 years" as manager.

"The success of the effort is a quintessential example of people coming together to tackle a critical community issue," Dr. Vest said.

Gail Enman, executive director of CASPAR, told the crowd, "It brings me special joy to see so many friends of CASPAR assembled here today to celebrate the community partnership which has produced this miraculous facility."

The 12,000-square-foot, one-story masonry and steel-frame building was designed by HMFH Associates of Central Square, Cambridge, using brick and concrete masonry and colored tiles on the exterior. The building's high-ceilinged sunlit dining room, which serves also as its lobby, has white squares of concrete block set off by light blue plaster walls and light fixtures, purple roof supports and yellow window casings.

Ms. Enman paid tribute to the builders, Walsh Brothers Inc., of Cambridge for not losing a single day of construction during this past winter's 17 storms.

City Councilor Jonathan Myers, who held 25 community meetings on the controversy, concluded the ceremonies, saying, "In the spirit of CASPAR, working together, we can solve any problem."

A version of this article appeared in the June 15, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 36).

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