Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 17, 2013

Reconnecting McDowell board approves location for Teacher Village

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WELCH — The Reconnecting McDowell board of directors approved a plan today to purchase property in downtown Welch, on which to build affordable housing for teachers and other professionals.

“This is a huge milestone for a greatly anticipated endeavor intended to help retain teachers in McDowell County and to spark economic development,” Gayle Manchin, chair of the Reconnecting McDowell board, said.

Manchin and the American Federation of Teachers started the Reconnection McDowell partnership in December 2011. It has grown into a campaign to improve the county’s schools, provide more social and health care services, and encourage economic development. Reconnecting McDowell now has 125 partners from government, nonprofit organizations, labor, corporations, the community and the school system engaged in providing sustainable programs and services to improve the quality residents living in McDowell County.

Community Housing Partners, the architecture firm that is designing the housing, presented the board with a few options for a Teacher Village in downtown Welch. The board chose to enter into a purchase option on the property of the long-closed Best Furniture and Katzen buildings. The partnership will pursue in the next several weeks whether to renovate the existing buildings or construct a new building.

The housing would include approximately 30 apartment-style units, group areas for teachers to collaborate, work out and relax, and community amenities such as a coffee shop on the street level for the general public. The board also agreed to explore the viability of other housing options throughout McDowell County, according to a Reconnecting McDowell press release.