Secrecy surrounds the now-closed Al's Nursery


Al's Nursery, an institution for 51 years in Portola Valley, closed on March 16.

The doors of the nursery building at 900 Portola Road were supposed to reopen as the new home of Windmill School, a private preschool founded, according to its website, in the 1950s near the large windmill on Portola Road.

But authoritative sources who preferred to remain anonymous have said that the deal between nursery owners John and Karin Wu and the school may have fallen through.

The nursery owners in early March agreed to an interview but later declined.

The school's director would not agree to an interview, but did agree to forward the Almanac's interview request to the school's board of directors. Board President Monika Cheney sent the Almanac a statement today (March 24).

"Windmill School has been and continues to be very interested in purchasing Al's Nursery in order to provide the children and youth of our community with both a preschool and family education center.

"The beautiful grounds of Al's Nursery would provide an ideal setting for instilling in our children a life-time love of learning, an appreciation of nature, and a sense of community.

"Windmill's Capital Campaign is thrilled with the opportunity to secure this critical asset for families in our community, and continues to be prepared to acquire the property, pending a needed zoning adjustment."

Meanwhile at the March 23 meeting of the Town Council, Town Manager Angie Howard asked the council to go into closed session after the regular meeting to discuss a real estate matter pertaining to the former nursery site.

Asked for the result of this session, Mayor Ted Driscoll said that the council took no formal action. "It was intended to get the whole council up to date on an issue," he said.

Windmill School, which is now in a building on the grounds of the Alpine Hills Tennis & Swim Club, proposed in 2004 to move to the new Town Center. At the time, plans for the Town Center had not yet coalesced.

The community held a charrette in which residents gathered to brainstorm alternative ideas for the layout of the new complex. The charrette produced seven or eight layouts.

The Town Council, while not opposed to the school's renting space in the two generic classrooms planned for the community hall, declined to dedicate space for it.

Opponents of having the school at Town Center cited traffic impacts eight times a day, the likely need for two-story buildings in a town with "rural character," and the prospect of involving the town, even peripherally, in education.

Advocates for the school at Town Center spoke of a greater sense of community that a preschool could help create.

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Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 26, 2011 at 9:02 am

I hope the town of PV doesn't put the kabash on the plans to open this place for a nursery school. How wonderful it would be to have the sound of children enjoying the surroundings Portola Valley has to offer.
We look forward to the Windmill taking over the Al's Nursery site.

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