The city's Historic Preservation Commission wants the former Deveaux Campus to be designated a local landmark, even as a project to redevelop the site as a state park plods along.
The commission wants to designate what's now known as Deveaux Woods State Park as a local historic district. Its recommendation will go to City Council in a couple of weeks, said Derek Waltho, secretary for the commission.
The state bought the 51-acre property adjacent to Whirlpool Park from Niagara University in 2001. Most of the eight remaining buildings on the property are vacant and boarded up.
The commission voted last week to recommend the local landmark designation after a public hearing where no one spoke.
Essentially, the city's decision has no effect on what the state ultimately decides, Waltho said. Whatever decision the state makes can supersede the city's desires.
"Legally, it's negligible. Morally, we hope it's significant," Waltho said.
"Some of the very important historic structures on that site have already been demolished," said commission Chairman Tom Yots. These include the Van Rensselaer Hall, named for the school's second president, a 3 1/2 -story stone building containing classrooms, library, chapel and dormitory rooms, and the adjoining Munro Hall.
But Schoellkopf Hall, a stone building constructed in 1930 as a dormitory, apparently will be saved.
It's one of several buildings targeted for rehabilitation under the state parks department's plan, said spokeswoman Cathy Jimenez. Others include the former Buscaglia-Castellani Art Gallery, which the state has reroofed, and Walker Hall, built in 1965.
Parks officials have said previously that administrative offices would be moved to Deveaux from the Niagara Reservation.
The request for proposals for other projects involved in the state's $835,000 redevelopment effort hasn't gone out yet, but will soon, Jimenez said. "It's still in the very early stages," she said Wednesday.
The state has installed new playground equipment on the property, she said, and created a trail across Robert Moses Parkway.
State personnel are also working on an interpretation plan for the five-acre stand of old-growth forest on the site, she said. It's said to be one of only two known surviving stands of old-growth forest within city limits nationwide.
The Deveaux Campus is listed on the state and national registers of historic places.
The property, the largest undeveloped tract in a residential area in the city, has been a concern to the DeVeaux neighborhood since it went on the market in the mid-1980s. Residents have grown accustomed to using the open, parklike setting.