Welch, W.Va.—The Reconnecting McDowell board of directors voted today to demolish the long-abandoned Best Furniture and Katzen buildings and build an apartment building for teachers and other professionals from the ground up.
The apartment building will be named "Renaissance Village" and will have approximately 30 housing units, community amenities such as a street-level coffee shop, and common areas for teachers and other residents to relax and collaborate.
The Reconnecting McDowell partnership purchased the Best Furniture and Katzen buildings, along with attached parking lots, in May 2014 for $92,000.
"Renaissance Village addresses three big problems that have plagued McDowell County—a high teacher vacancy rate, a dearth of available housing, and a lack of economic development," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which spearheaded the partnership in December 2011. "A beautiful new apartment complex should be a powerful incentive for great teachers to come and stay in McDowell County."
The school system currently has about 40 teacher vacancies.
"'Renaissance' means 'rebirth' or 'revival,' and that's precisely what we're attempting to do with Renaissance Village in downtown Welch," said Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell's board. "We're hoping that this construction project will encourage others to invest in McDowell and start other projects to give the local economy a much-needed jolt."
Work on obtaining financing is underway, with the board voting to apply for a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan for rural rental property.
Construction should begin in the next few months, with completion in the next 24 months. Community Housing Partners Design Studio of Christiansburg, Va., is designing the apartment building and will use West Virginia union workers.