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New Teacher Housing for Troubled McDowell County

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Ashton Marra
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the governing board for Reconnecting McDowell voted to demolish two buildings in the county seat of Welch to make way for new, affordable housing for teachers and young professionals.

The board and members of the American Federation of Teachers held a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the old Best’s Furniture warehouse, a 25,000 square foot building that’s sat vacant for years. In the coming months, it and the smaller Katzan building located directly behind it will be torn down to make way for 28 new housing units.

State Board of Education President Gayle Manchin, who also chairs the project’s board, said the new structure will provide more than just housing. Plans include space on the first floor for workspace to encourage teacher collaboration and a coffee shop and possible deli to spur economic development in downtown Welch which she said is key.

“In order to tell the parents that live in this area, we want to educate your children with the skills that can enable them to get a job in this region, you have to have economic development,” she said. “We believe this is one step in helping to build an economically viable community again.”

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Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
The building set to be demolished sits in the middle of downtown Welch.

The total project is estimated to cost $5.5 million with money from federal low interest loans, the state and more than $2 million from the private sector.

At least, that’s the plan. Reconnecting McDowell Project Manager Bob Brown said after the ceremony he plans to lobby state lawmakers for assistance and will begin almost immediately reaching out to businesses and national foundations for funds.

An exact date for demolition has not been set, but Brown said they expect the new building’s construction to be complete within the next year to 18 months. 

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