CHARLESTON, W.Va.—Gov. Jim Justice today awarded Reconnecting McDowell $1 million from the Abandoned Mine Land Grants program, to be used for financing the construction of the Renaissance Village apartment building in Welch, W.Va.
Reconnecting McDowell is in the final stages of building Renaissance Village, which will provide previously unavailable modern rental apartments to teachers and others in McDowell County. The funding puts the project, slated to be open by the start of the fall 2020 school year, near the finishing line for financing.
“This is a make-or-break moment for investment in public education in America, as communities, families, states, and public schools and services around the country reel from the economic and public health devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this grant, Gov. Justice has offered just-in-time financing to make Renaissance Village—the first multiple-floor construction in McDowell in decades—a reality. It’s an important show of support for the educators and families of McDowell,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which spearheaded the Reconnecting McDowell public-private partnership.
“When educators can live in the community where they work, it makes it that much easier for them to focus on the educational needs, safety, health and well-being of their students, which is exactly what we’ve been working toward in McDowell for years. Thank you, Gov. Justice,” Weingarten said.
Fred Albert, president of AFT-West Virginia, said Renaissance Village is more than just another building. “It represents a tangible display of economic development in the county and an innovative and necessary way to recruit and retain great teachers,” Albert said.
Reconnecting McDowell applied for this highly competitive grant three years ago because part of the Welch property on which Renaissance Village is located is an abandoned mine.
The Abandoned Mine Land Grants funding comes from fees that had been paid by active coal mine operators on each ton of coal mined.
“McDowell County was once one of the state’s largest coal producers,” said Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America. “Sadly, the industry collapsed over the past several decades, and communities and families have suffered a terrible toll. It’s good to know that something good is coming out of this sad history. Coal miners of West Virginia are proud of our past and proud of what we are doing to help revive the county.”