The Yale Divinity School is seeking to expand its real estate by purchasing a single-family home near East Rock.
Yale administrators Stephen Brown and Karen King presented preliminary plans for the acquisition of a two-story house next to its current campus at a meeting of the East Rock Community Management Team on Jan. 22. Although Yale has not made a formal purchase, the overall support for the plan — both within the Divinity School and at the meeting — has signaled that the deal is likely to happen.
“We are currently in the preliminary stages of this exploration and have begun the process by visiting the neighboring management teams to discuss the potential acquisition and seek community input,” Divinity School Dean Gregory Sterling said.
The house, located at 320 Canner St., would be used as a hub for the Andover Newton Seminary, which signed an affiliation agreement with the Divinity School this summer. The building will be used for classes, meetings and activities directly related to the education of ministers, Sterling said.
As it currently stands, the house is designed for residential living and will likely have to be renovated to function as an academic space. At the meeting, King and Brown emphasized that any renovations would occur only on the inside of the current building. King and Brown also talked of creating a pathway connecting the property to the existing campus.
The Andover Newton Seminary, formerly known as the Andover Newton Theological School, is the oldest graduate school in the country. Sarah Drummond, dean of Andover Newton and the current assistant dean of the Divinity School, said the partnership was destined to happen.
“[Both schools] emerged from the same 19th century religious movement in New England,” she said. “Over the centuries, our respective missions diverged, [but] in 2015, both schools found themselves at a crossroads where partnership made sense to each.”
The Divinity School traditionally offers a broad religious education, while Andover Newton focuses more on preparing its students to serve as pastors. Drummond noted that this partnership ensures both breadth and depth in religious study, allowing students to experience multiple religious traditions while retaining the option of focused study at Andover Newton. About 30 of the Divinity School’s 400 students are currently affiliated with the Seminary.
The purchase of the 320 Canner St. property is the next logical step in the schools’ partnership, giving Andover Newton the space it needs to develop its own identity while still being part of the greater Divinity School community, Drummond said.
The purchase could lead to a loss of revenue for the Elm City, as Yale is exempt from paying property taxes on its buildings. Were the Divinity School to go through with purchasing the house, the city would likely lose its ability to tax the property. Each year, the University pays the city a lump sum in lieu of taxes.
A 2016 evaluation assessed the property at roughly $480,000, which translates to around $19,000 in lost tax revenue. It remains unclear whether Yale would need to seek the city’s permission to change the purpose of the space.
Local residents at the East Rock Community Management Team meeting, however, seemed mostly on board with the plan. David Budries, the chair of the East Rock Community Management Team and a professor in the Yale School of Drama, said there was “very little overall concern” about the proposal when it was presented. While the property tax issue was mentioned at the meeting, Budries said most residents saw the plan as the logical annexation of a property next to the existing campus.
“No one’s excited about [the property tax loss], but I think they understood it was a reasonable expansion,” Budries said.
The Yale Divinity School is located at 409 Prospect St.
Conor Johnson | firstname.lastname@example.org