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Architects Begin Design Work on New Homeless Shelter

By Brian Rosenberg
Contributing Editor

Architects at HMF* Architects, Inc. have begun work on the design of a new shelter for homeless alcoholics and drug addicts to be built by MIT for the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholic Rehabilitation.

MIT retained the Cambridge firm to design a new 55-person shelter as part of an agreement struck last month with the City of Cambridge. MIT will lease the shelter at 240 Albany St. to CASPAR for $1 a year under a 20-year renewable lease. In exchange, MIT will receive segments of three city streets and the sidewalks along part of Vassar Street.

Architect George Metzger, the principal in charge of the project for HMFH, said the shelter is currently in the programming and preliminary design stage. "At this point we're defining the space needs of the shelter -- seeing what types and sizes of spaces the shelter needs and how those spaces should relate to each other," he said.

Metzger said he and associate Laura Wernick have been working on the shelter's design for about two weeks. Metzger, Immerman, and representatives of CASPAR and the city meet every other week to review progress and discuss ideas for the shelter. Immerman said he expects to begin meeting every week as more specific ideas are discussed.

Metzger expects to complete the current stage of the design process by June 1 and to have final construction documents by Oct. 1. "Our target for completion of the shelter is next summer," he said.

Firm chosen for experience

Stephen D. Immerman, director of special services and MIT's liaison to the project, said that HMF* was chosen for its experience with similar projects. "HMF* has worked a lot in the public sector, and they have a great familiarity with Cambridge as a working environment. They've done a lot of work on school-type institutional buildings... They're sensitive to the issues involved," he said.

"This project presents the opportunity to do a good public facility," Metzger said. "It's a challenging project because of the need to design an operationally-efficient shelter on a tight budget. In addition, there aredesign issues relating to having the building fit in on Albany Street -- that area is in transition, and the building needs to respond both to what's there now and what will be there in the future."

Michelle Rutledge, a multi-service counselor at the current CASPAR facility, said, "We're all excited -- that's the general feeling from both guests and staff."

"This is a job which needs to be done well, and I have high hopes it will be something everyone will be pleased with," Immerman said.