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Institute, Cambridge Near Accord on CASPAR Shelter

By Jeremy Hylton
Editor In Chief

The Cambridge City Council reached a tentative agreement with MIT to build a shelter for homeless alcoholics and drug addicts at 240 Albany St. The agreement would provide a 20-year renewable lease for the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcohol Rehabilitation.

The council voted unanimously to support an "agreement in principle" with a plan outlined in a letter from Ronald P. Suduiko, assistant to the president for government and community relations. Under the plan, MIT will build a shelter for CASPAR and the city would give MIT effective control over four city streets.

Negotiators from MIT and the city met this week and expect to have a final proposal ready for Monday night's city council meeting. "Our legal people from the city and MIT's legal people are working on an agreement. It's mainly detail kinds of things," said Councilor Jonathan S. Myers, who heads the council's Special Committee on the Siting of CASPAR.

"It's really the language details," explained Suduiko. "We agree in concept about the lease."

The city must also consider "whether the proposed agreement can be done under existing disposition of land and state purchasing procedures," the resolution said.

The council asked City Manager Robert F. Healy to prepare a final agreement for presentation at next Monday's council meeting. The special committee also met yesterday to endorse the agreement in principle. MIT officials also met with the committee.

"We are all working together to get this done," Myers said.

Officials from both the city and MIT expect a final agreement to be ready on Monday. "I think all parties are filled with the hope that we can bring a difficult problem to final solution," Suduiko said.

Details of proposal

The plan agreed to by MIT and Cambridge is the latest in a series of proposals exchanged over the last few months. The last four weeks have been spent ironing out a compromise, which involved settling on a location and on compensation for MIT.

The location of the shelter has been the largest roadblock in CASPAR's 19-year effort to find a permanent home. Recently, residents had opposed the sites under consideration by the city. MIT resolved that difficulty by offering the 240 Albany St. site for a long-term lease.

The city, however, disapproved of MIT's request that the city sell it four streets as compensation. Suduiko's letter to the council effectively endorsed a counter-offer made by the city on Feb. 9.

In the letter, MIT asked that the city sell Amherst Street and lease Carleton and Hayward Streets and the sidewalks of Vassar Street. The Institute also asked for easements that would allow it to build bridges or tunnel across Carleton and Hayward Streets to connect buildings on either side of the street, close Hayward Street to automobile traffic, and improve the sidewalks on Vassar Street.

The Albany Street shelter would be leased to CASPAR for 20 years, with an option to extend the lease another 20 years. The council's resolution specifies that if CASPAR cannot fulfill the lease, "that the City have the option of ... continuing the lease for the duration of the 40-year time frame for continued use for health services..."

MIT would charge the city $1 a year to rent the CASPAR site. The city would charge MIT $1 a year to cover rental of the streets.

Some of the debate over MIT's acquisition of the four streets has focused on MIT's plans for them. A few councilors and Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves questioned MIT's long-term plans for the streets.

"It's taken us a period of time to get to a firmer understanding of what MIT is interested in doing. I think it has been helpful to know what some of their ultimate interests are," Myers said.

The Institute specifically requested two easements for bridges or tunnels between buildings across Carleton Street and another easement on Hayward Street for either a bridge or a tunnel.

"People generally understand what our intentions are with the streets and the sidewalks and have essentially reached a position where they are not threatened by them," Suduiko said.