There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the economic challenges facing McDowell County, but one long-awaited project now under construction in the county certainly merits some positive press.

The walls to the new Renaissance Village in Welch are now going up. In fact, the contractors for the $7 million project have made a tremendous amount of progress in a short period of time. The teacher village project is being constructed at the site of the old Best Furniture Company building in the city’s downtown area.

Once finished it will feature  two floors of apartments for teachers and two floors of retail/commercial space. A previous plan featuring four floors with apartments proved to be too expensive, so the project was scaled back to two floors. But its purpose remains the same — to provide new housing for teachers.

Planning for the project dates back to 2013. It was proposed by Reconnecting McDowell as a way to address the shortage of teachers in McDowell County, a problem caused in part by the lack of modern and adequate housing in the county. Many teachers currently employed by the school system live outside of McDowell County and commute to and from work each day due to the lack of suitable housing.

Officials with Reconnecting McDowell hope the new Renaissance Village will give McDowell County teachers more opportunities to live in the county and be near their schools and their students’ families.

“We are happy that work is underway,” Janet Bass, a spokesperson with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) told the Daily Telegraph last week. “It should be a boost for Welch and for the people who rent apartments. We’re thrilled that work has started.”

 The Renaissance Village is the first multi-story construction project to be undertaken in the city of Welch in nearly 50 years. So, in addition to providing modern housing for teachers, it will also provide an economic boost to the city while also increasing vehicular and foot traffic in the downtown area.

We look forward to the opening of the Renaissance Village, and we encourage those teachers looking for housing close to their schools to take advantage of it.