ML - Boston Common

2013 - Issue 3 - Summer

Boston Common - Niche Media - A side of Boston that's anything but common.

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Page 44 of 131

VIEW FROM THE TOP funding our dreams PHILANTHROPIST AND CHAMPION SAILOR WENDY SCHMIDT HAS BECOME A BENEFACTOR FOR THE YEAR-ROUND ISLAND COMMUNITY (AND THE PLANET). BY REBECCA KNIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY BY NATHAN COE (SCHMIDT); LISA FREY (RAYNOR AND SCHMIDT); IMAGE DESIGN STUDIO (DREAMLAND) W endy Schmidt's first visit to Nantucket was in the summer of 1999. She and her husband, Eric, the executive chairman of Google, were invited to an anniversary party at a friend's house on the island. "We got off the ferry and walked into town, and it just grabbed me: the light, the air, the architecture, the way the homes are organically woven into the landscape—it was beautiful," she recalls. Three days later, they bought a half-parlor house in town. "Nantucket is a special place; you go there and you feel at home," she says. But as she spent more time on the island (the Schmidts later bought a house on Cliff Road), she saw a stark contrast between what she felt were two very different island populations. Nantucket is home to about 10,000 year-round residents, and the population swells to five times that in peak summer. "People would come for the summer and then go away," says Schmidt, whose lean, yogahoned frame makes her seem taller than she is. The more time she spent on Nantucket, the more she realized that summer visitors to the island's downtown were not getting to know the "real" Nantucket beloved by many summer and year-round residents. In turn, "For the people who live on Nantucket [fulltime], it didn't seem like the island belonged to them in summer," she says. "I thought that there needed to be a bridge between the two communities." Her desire to find ways for Nantucket to serve its TOP: Dreamland board members Angela Raynor and Wendy Schmidt hold tickets for Jaws on the theater's opening night last summer. LEFT: The rebuilt Dreamland Theater lights up at dusk. residents year-round prompted her to start ReMain Nantucket, a philanthropic organization dedicated to the island's economic, social, and environmental vitality. ReMain is an offshoot of the Schmidt Family Foundation, which last year gave away about $21 million, with approximately $900,000 of it going to Nantucket. (According to Forbes, her husband is worth $8.2 billion.) Over the years Schmidt and ReMain have embarked on a number of largescale projects on the island. She bought Mitchell's Book Corner, a beloved bookshop at the top of Main Street that had been in danger of closing, for $3.2 million, and gave it a million-dollar green renovation, which included installing better insulation, using sustainable woods to shore up the building and preserve the original design, decorating with low-VOC paints and Green Label Plus–certified carpeting, and utilizing energy- and water-saving technology. She purchased a building on Centre Street and helped finance and house Petticoat Row Bakery when the proprietors, who were previously based in their house, were looking for a permanent retail outlet to sell their gorgeous sweets and decorated cakes. Schmidt partnered with a local entrepreneur to open the island's first savory pie shop, the Nantucket Pasty Co. She also led a $34 million project that involved rebuilding the Dreamland Theater on South Water Street and the cocreation of the nonprofit Nantucket Dreamland Foundation. Melissa Murphy of the Dreamland Theater —WENDY SCHMIDT says, "Having grown up on Nantucket, the Dreamland was such an important part of my social life. It was only opened seasonally then, but it was always so much more than a movie theater—it was a gathering place. In the new Dreamland, our community has our beloved theater back—with upgrades!—and most important we are now open year-round for movies, theatrical performances, concerts, and so much more." Most of the projects Schmidt invests in have their genesis in community need. Either individuals or particular groups have expressed that need directly to her, or she becomes aware of the needs through meetings. One such project will open this autumn—a new music center that will also serve as a downtown campus for the Nantucket Community School, the adult education arm of the local public school. In addition to classrooms, the building will house rehearsal spaces, a recording studio, a parlor for small recitals, and a computer lab. The building has several eco-friendly attributes: It will be heated and cooled via a geothermal system; rainwater will be captured from the roof and used to supplement irrigation in the summer and flush toilets in the winter; and its lawn will include continued on page 44 "It's inevitable that there is a future, so the question becomes: Are we shaping it or are we reacting to it?" BOSTONCOMMON-MAGAZINE.COM 042-044_BC_SP_VFT_SUM13.indd 43 43 6/10/13 10:33 AM

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