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Divinity school development plans move forward

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Developer Angelo Ingrassia's Spot on Development company is working with city officials to try make Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School's 22.5-acre campus into a Planned Development District. While Ingrassia wants to create new housing units on the site, 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.

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 educational organizations 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 plans to build two new structures. One would be a 150,000-square-foot, L-shaped building north of Strong Hall. It 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, which might be used for senior housing.

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."

Another neighbor of the divinity school is more concerned, however. The campus abuts property in both the city and the Town of Brighton, and one of the new buildings would be close to houses on Summit Drive there. And while the developer has met with city residents about his plans, a Brighton resident says he hasn't met with that town. Resident Paul Brookes says he's worried about noise, light, and salt runoff from the building and its parking lot.

Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle says he hadn't heard about the new plan "until it appeared in the media." Moehle said he talked to the town planning staff on Friday, asking them to look at the impact the project might have on Brighton residents. Moehle said his staff doesn't have many details about the proposal yet, and that it's "too early to say" whether he has concerns.

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.

Jeremy Moule contributed to the research on this article.

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