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Landmark status for divinity school?

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Months after officials at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School announced plans to sell the picturesque 24-acre campus to Top Capital of New York, there's a push to turn the site a city landmark. The matter is expected to go before a joint hearing of the city's Preservation and Planning boards on Wednesday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers.

The proposal's backers say the campus may be the most significant non-designated landmark in the city. The five original buildings were designed by James Gamble Rogers, architect of many of Yale University's buildings. And the grounds are the work of landscape architect Alling DeForest, who designed the Eastman Museum gardens. The expansive, open hillside and proximity to Highland Park heightens the appeal.

Though no plans have been submitted to the city, Top Capital officials have talked about investing about $36 million in the property. They envision converting the main building into a hotel and adding a new building near the southeast corner of South Goodman Street and Highland Avenue. The divinity school would lease space in the new building.

Some residents near Highland Park are clearly worried about the campus's future. Marie Via, who submitted the application for landmark status, says she opposes constructing a new building near the Highland-Goodman Street intersection. Via said she wouldn't object to a new building at the top of the hill, with the other buildings. "It's really the protection of that park-like green space that's the real concern," she said.

The landmark designation wouldn't mean that the owners couldn't build on the site, says Cynthia Howk, architectural research coordinator for the Landmark Society of Western New York. But any changes to the exterior of the current buildings and the grounds, and any new construction would be subject to approval by the Preservation Board, she says.

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