New apartment complex for West Virginia teachers progresses

By GREG JORDAN of The Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WELCH, W.Va. (AP) — An apartment building designed to give McDowell County’s teachers new places to live is steadily taking shape and joining the skyline of downtown Welch.

Construction started in early August 2019 on the new housing at the site of the old Best Furniture Building. The project was first known as the Teachers Village, but later the name was changed to the Renaissance Village. Besides apartments for educators, the building will have new retail space as well.

Bob Brown, treasurer for Reconnecting McDowell, said the top two floors will have 16 apartments.

“They are a combination of one and two-bedroom apartments,” he stated. “The first two floors are going to be retail and/or commercial space. It’s coming along really well.”

Much of the building’s exterior is finished, and work on finishing the interior spaces is still underway. The plan is to have the Renaissance Village open by summer this year.

“It is our hope that it will be ready by the first of July,” Brown said. “That is our hope right now.”

McDowell County Schools Superintendent Carolyn Falin said that she sees progress every day when she drives by Renaissance Village.

The organization Reconnect McDowell started on the Renaissance Village so the county could offer local housing for teachers. Many of McDowell County’s teachers have to commute long distances every day, and many do not live in the county itself. Housing has to be affordable for teachers, Falin said.

“One of the issues we’ve had in the past is that we don’t have any housing or no rentable housing,” Falin said. “Most people want to sell their houses, and they don’t have a lot of properties.”

McDowell County Schools currently has 24 teaching vacancies, Falin stated. Substitute teachers are filling these positions until applicants can be found.

“This (Renaissance Village) will give them an opportunity to have a place to rent and call home,” she said.

Welch city officials said when construction began that besides making it easier for new teachers to live in McDowell County, the new apartment building will give the local economy a boost by bringing more people to the downtown district.