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With sale, what’s next for St. Paul’s College?

SoVaNow.com / December 06, 2017
Officials in Brunswick County and the Town of Lawrenceville are in the dark concerning the future of the Saint Paul’s College campus, which was sold last week to a Chinese-backed company for $2.5 million.

The vacated campus of the Historically Black University and College in Lawrenceville was sold by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal agency that took over the assets of Saint Paul’s to cover unpaid pension obligations. The buyer listed on the deed, recorded Monday, Nov. 27, is Xinhua Education Investment Corporation.

Little is known about the company outside of a filing with the State Corporation Commission that lists David Z. Lu as its registered agent. The address for Xinhua Education Investment Corporation is 8500 Leesburg Pike, Suite 7000, Vienna, Va. That is the same address given for Lu.

Lu’s professional page, which he set up on social media, says his nearly 25-year-old firm, David Z. Lu & Associates, concentrates on U.S. immigration laws and international business consultation, and in particular business transactions between U.S. and Chinese entities.

“The firm has been concentrating on business immigration, especially on international corporations and investment green card program in the U.S.,” according to Lu’s online bio. “It offers legal consultation on setting up business operation and business management.”

Efforts to reach Lu and the company for comment this week were unsuccessful.

Lawrenceville and Brunswick County officials said they had no prior knowledge of the Saint Paul’s sale, and officials with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation say they, too, are unaware of what plans Xinhua Education Investment Corporation has for the campus. Local and regional economic development officials also profess no knowledge of the corporation’s plans in Lawrenceville.

The sale included approximately 135 acres and all real assets of the campus property with the exception of the student center. Also, the Saint Paul’s chapel and surrounding land was not sold to Xinhua, since the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation did not hold title to that property.

An additional 400-acre site previously owned by the college was sold before Saint Paul’s College turned over its remaining assets to the pension guaranty fund, and therefore was not part of the latest transaction with Xinhua Education Investment Corporation.

According to the SCC filing, Xinhua Education Investment Corporation was formed Aug. 17, by Lu. Other officials associated with the corporation, according to the articles of incorporation, are Dongyuan Liu and Ronghai Liu. They, too, are listed at the 8500 Leesburg Pike address.

Lu’s professional bio says he is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association and the New York Bar, and licensed to practice before the federal circuit in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1992, but also studied law in a Master’s degree program in China prior to coming to the United States. While in China, he earned his Bachelor degree in English Language and Literature, and in 1989 he was nominated by the Fulbright Foundation as a Chinese Legal Scholar.

Before closing in 2013, Saint Paul’s College was one of 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S. and one of three founded by the Episcopal Church. The college, which first opened on Sept. 24, 1888, began as a training ground for teachers and for agricultural and industrial jobs.

By the late 20th century, Saint Paul’s College offered undergraduate degrees for traditional college students and distance learning students in its continuing studies program. The school also offered adult education to help assist working adults to gain undergraduate degrees. Saint Paul’s College had a single parent support system program that assisted single teen parents pursuing a college education.

The college closed its doors on June 30, 2013 after it was unable to overcome a string of problems ranging from lost accreditation to shaky finances. The decision to shut down came just three weeks after Saint Augustine’s University (SAU) backed out of a plan to merge the two schools.

After the closing, Dr. Millard D. “Pete” Stith was appointed president of the college’s board and charged with finding an experienced realtor to market the property. In 2014, Stith hired Richmond-based Motley’s Auction & Realty Group to try to find a buyer for the 183-acre campus and facilities, but no buyer was forthcoming.

An uproar resulted later in 2014 when Stith negotiated a deal with the federal government to house up to 500 unaccompanied alien children on campus of Saint Paul’s. The school would have received $160,000 a month in rent had the project moved forward. At the time, Stith said the deal would have given Saint Paul’s a much-needed cash infusion to complete campus improvements, pay off debts and possibly reopen for business.

However, community opposition scotched the deal and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation acquired the rights to much of the campus property in 2015, using it as collateral for the underfunded Saint Paul’s College Employees’ Pension Plan.

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