The four-acre hillside property once occupied by the recently closed Windrush School has been sold to a Richmond couple who want to use the site and existing buildings in the service of public education, the couple's representatives told Patch.
The Chamberlins want to use the site to support public education, either as a public school facility or as an entity that supports public education, Wright said.
No decision has been made on what the use will be, she said. The Chamberlins are seeking community input to gather ideas and suggestions, she said.
"We're not looking at a private school," she said. "We want a public school ... or some other organization or institution that supports kids."
They've established a an email address, Windrush.Facility@gmail.com, to receive public feedback.
"What we're looking for is to hear back from our neighbors," Wright said. "What are their thoughts? What are their visions? We really want it to be collaborative."
Wright said there are no plans to add new structures or to make significant alterations to existing buildings at the high-profile property at Elm and Hill streets, including its two distinctive main structures: the Chinese-themed main building that opened in 1935 as the Chung Mei Home, believed to have been the only orphanage for Chinese boys in the U.S., and the library/middle school building, which was completed in 2008 and secured a LEED Platinum award, the highest green rating.
It was the latter building that sank Windrush School, which was forced to close last June after 35 years as a private, progressive education-oriented K-8 school. The school issued $13 million in bonds in 2007 to pay for the new building and ultimately defaulted, leaving the property in the hands of Wells Fargo Bank, trustee for the bondholders.
Wells Fargo disclosed in September that it signed a purchase agreement with a newly established California-based limited liability company, Educational Ventures, LLC, for $6.9 million.
Educational Ventures is the legal holder of the property and was set up by the Chamberlins, who are the company's sole owners, said David Richey, a spokesman for the couple.
The couple are now retired and are seeking "to give back to their community," Wright said.
Susan Chamberlin had a career as an architect who oversaw the renovation of the Oakland Museum of California and also worked for the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. Steve Chamberlin is the founder of Chamberlin Associates, a Bay Area commercial development firm. Both have also been members of the professional faculty at the Haas School of Business.
Their Chamberlin Family Foundation, established in 2006, has made at least two large contributions to the Haas School. It reported $1.39 million in charitable contributions, gifts and grants in 2011, and assets with a market value of $28.26 million at the end of the year.
The foundation's website says, "We invest in people and ideas that will create transformational and sustainable change in K-12 public education where inequitable opportunities impede student potential."
Wright said she has already started meeting with community members, including City Manager Scott Hanin, about ideas for the Windrush site, and Richey said public meetings also are being contemplated.
"I'm going to be spending a big part of the coming weeks and months talking to the community," Wright said.
"What we really want to do is have an open dialogue with the community," she said.
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