Owner promises Wight school has a future as it goes back on market

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AUBURN — George Wu had hoped to convert the old Charles P. Wight School into a residence, but that didn’t work out.

“I remember going to school there, when it was the Land Lab, and I remembered it,” said Wu, a New Hampshire-based Internet marketer. “When I saw that it was available, I thought it would have been an excellent site. There are walking trails and it will be a great family place, whatever it is. No matter what, it will be very successful.”

Now the building and the surrounding 2 1/4 acres are back on the market, with a $300,000 asking price.

Wu said he was confident he’d find a buyer. And if he doesn’t, he has a use of his own in mind — a training center for Internet entrepreneurs.

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“We have the ability to teach people what we do, to handle hundreds of  thousands of orders a day and run a successful business,” Wu said. “If nothing happens, and if nobody else steps forward, we can bring our own business there and into the school.”

The Auburn School Department vacated the building, at 31 Holbrook Road, in the summer of 2009, relocating the Land Lab to East Auburn Elementary School.

The Wight School was built in 1951 and was open until the late 1980s. It was used by the town of Hebron, until the late 1990s, when the city created the Land Lab as a single source for the Auburn elementary environmental science program.

Wu’s North Conway, N.H.-based Virtual Commerce bought the building and grounds from the city on April 13, 2010.

“We were going to turn it into a beautiful home, but the company that does our finance decided not to go through with it,” Wu said. “The only thing to do was to turn it into something that’s feasible for another kind of business.”

Wu said he imagines the building will continue to be used as a school of some sort.

“We’ve had interest from day care centers, a food pantry and even some churches,” Wu said. “Whatever the market demands, we’re happy to do. There is nothing more that I want other than to see that building reused.”

Wu grew up in Auburn. His family owned the Hunan House restaurant and now owns the Panda Garden on Center Street.

He said his company has spent more than $100,000 renovating the Wight School building. That’s meant replacing the roof, fixing the furnace and repainting all of the interior walls.

“We’ve had neighbors knock on the door wanting to see it,” Wu said. “It’s a beautiful site and we’ve redone everything from the driveway in.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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