Reconnecting McDowell begins demolition work in Welch to build new apartment building for teachers

WELCH, W.Va. — A key step for the Reconnecting McDowell program was made Thursday in an effort to spur economic development in the hard-hit county.

Work to tear down the Best Furniture and Katzen buildings in downtown Welch began Thursday morning to make room for an apartment building that will be used primarily for teachers in McDowell County.

“We are providing housing for professionals — certainly teachers that we recruit there. Now they don’t have to live in Bluefield or Beckley and travel more than an hour to get to work both ways each day,” said Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell.

The new facility will be called the Renaissance Village, Manchin said.

The first floor will include retail space. The floor above that will include 30 apartment units with 1-2 bedrooms and big enough to fit a bedroom furniture set.

Manchin said the goal is to create adequate housing in the area, so more people can live and work in Welch and McDowell County.

“It’s so that our children and our students would see professional people walking around on the street and living in the community,” she said.

The project is intended to help alleviate a severe housing shortage, which has made recruiting and retaining teachers very difficult, Manchin said. Volunteers include people who see a vision for McDowell County children.

“Children having the opportunity for a quality education is critical and every child deserves that opportunity,” she said.

Reconnecting McDowell purchased the two buildings and leased the attached parking lots in May 2014.

Renaissance Village will be the first multistory construction in Welch in 50 years.

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