CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s another step forward for Reconnecting McDowell. The group has purchased two buildings in downtown Welch to create a teacher village.
“One of the issues we’re dealing with in McDowell County is a shortage of classroom teachers. One of the reasons we have a shortage is inadequate housing opportunities,” said Bob Brown, the coordinator of Reconnecting McDowell.
The program is a comprehensive, long-term effort to make educational improvement in McDowell County. Brown stressed that’s hard when potential hires come for an interview and don’t see viable housing options.
“If I’m coming in here from Iowa or Chicago or somewhere and I don’t know anyone and I’m not used to this sort or rural living, probably living up in a hollow somewhere will not be appealing,” explained Brown.
Reconnecting McDowell will meet again in June to decide whether to rehab the old Best Furniture and Katzen buildings or tear them down and start from the ground up. They’re looking at housing for about 35, with commons areas and a coffee shop.
Brown said they want teachers who come in to McDowell County from out of state to feel right at home.
“We thought if we could create a professional village where teachers and other young professionals could live it would be conducive to getting folks to stay and give us 3 or 4 or 5 years of work in McDowell County,” he stressed.
Brown calls it a win/win for Welch. He believes it will drive the economy bringing in new businesses like restaurants and cafes.
Once the Reconnecting McDowell Board of Directors meet and decide what to do with the buildings, they hope to have a ground breaking ceremony later this summer.
The property cost $92,000. The dollar amount for rehab and construction are still being put together.