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Divinity school development plans move forward 

[ UPDATED ] Developer Angelo Ingrassia's Spot on Development is working with the city to make Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School's 22.5-acre campus into  a Planned Development District. While Ingrassia is considering some changes to the site that will involve new housing units, there are no plans to develop the property's south lawn "at this time," according to an announcement from Spot on Development and Flaum Management Company. 
click to enlarge Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School's 22.5 acre campus near Highland Park was sold last year to local developer Angelo Ingrassia. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School's 22.5 acre campus near Highland Park was sold last year to local developer Angelo Ingrassia.

Ingrassia is looking at several options for Strong Hall, the most prominent building on the site, such as a special event location for weddings, corporate meetings, and training sessions.

The building could also be used for longer-term tenants amenable to shared office spaces or an educational organization needing classrooms. Ingrassia would also consider partnering with another developer to convert Strong Hall into a boutique hotel or senior living center, according to the statement.

Ingrassia is, however, planning to build two new structures. One would be a 150,000 square foot L-shaped building behind Strong Hall. The new building could potentially become an assisted living or senior housing site consisting of 115 units. A second, smaller building would be constructed on the far eastern side of the property consisting of 10 units that may also be used for senior housing.

The two existing buildings on the northeastern corner of the property, which were already used for housing, will be renovated into a 28-unit apartment building, the statement says.

"The board and neighborhood are really happy with this plan, " says Mary Rose McBride, a Highland Park Neighborhood Association board member. "It really will maintain the character of the Colgate campus, and that was the most important thing to us. We didn't want buildings to go up that didn't conform to the space."

McBride said that the Highland neighborhood and the nearby  Azalea neighborhood were both concerned about earlier plans that called for a three- or four-story building on the corner of South Goodman and Highland Avenue. "That really would have ruined the whole vista of the Colgate campus" she said.

Also happy with the news: the Landmark Society of Western New York. The group had put the divinity school on its list of Five to Revive, because of earlier uncertainty about what might happen to the property. But Larry Francer, associate director of preservation for the Landmark Society, says that so far, he likes what he's heard of these latest plans.

“I might even say that it is a building and really a whole campus that has been saved," he said. "We really feel this is a win-win, what we’re reading about and the meetings we’ve had with the developers.”

CRCDS officials put the property up for sale more than two years ago due to repairs and maintenance costs they could no longer manage, they said. Ingrassia bought the property, which is a city landmark,  last year. In his early meetings with neighborhood groups, it was clear from residents that building on the south lawn was a major concern for them. At the time, Ingrassia said he couldn't commit to not building on the site out of financial concerns.

This story has been updated with comments from the Highland Park Neighborhood Association and the Landmark Society.

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