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Developer, neighbors try to work out differences over plans for Colgate Rochester Divinity campus

Even though the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School campus is one of the most significant historic sites in Rochester, it is not designated as a city landmark.

An application from a city resident could change that. The nomination is on the agenda of the Rochester Preservation and Planning Commission when it meets Wednesday.

The landmark designation request followed the tentative sale of the architecturally rich campus near Highland Park to a local developer, Top Capital of New York.

"A landmark designation really helps preserve the things that give a site its economic value,” said Caitlin Meives, preservation planner at the Landmark Society of Western New York. “It certainly doesn't prevent future development, but it just helps ensure that future development compliments the things that give it its value." 

A neighborhood resident, Marie Via, filed the application for the designation.  That in itself is unusual, Meives said. Requests for landmark status typically come from property owners who want to preserve their property for posterity.

Top Capital has tentative plans to convert the main building into a hotel and conference center and build a new school.  One of the chief concerns of neighbors was an original concept to construct the 30,000 square foot school at the corner of South Goodman Street and Highland Avenue. But Lou Giardino, chief development officer and partner in the firm tells WXXI News that location has been reconsidered and there is now a new tentative plan to build the school at the top of the hill on the existing campus, where two, six decades old dormitories used for student housing now sit.

"We've made significant progress because we listened to the groups and we respected their opinions and were sensitive to their priorities,” Giardino said. “And then we worked with the college to incorporate (it) into the final...or at least the proposed development."

“The devil is in the details",  Meives said, but she considers that a better proposition than the earlier plan, which she said would have eliminated green space at Goodman and Highland to make way for a school building and parking lot.

Giardino said he and his partners are also committed to preserving Hope Lodge on the Colgate campus, a temporary residence for patients undergoing cancer treatments.

The developer would like to start construction on the new school building as soon as possible, Giardino said, and have it ready by Fall, 2018.

He said the design process is still in the early stages and the proposed sale of the campus itself has not been finalized.

The Preservation Planning Commission meeting, which is open to the public, is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Rochester City Hall.