MONTGOMERY — Following the assignment of West Virginia Tech as a division of West Virginia University in 1996, the Tech Bookstore sold a T-shirt listing the college’s various names, beginning with “Montgomery Preparatory School,” with each successive name marked through.
Last week it was announced “Riverbend, Center for Supporting Higher Education,” the proposed higher education facility designed for individuals aging out of foster care to be housed on the former WVU Tech campus, will not come to fruition and another name can be marked off the hypothetical T-shirt listing the campus’ evolution since 1895.
According to a press release, KVC Health Systems, which took over several of the former WVU Tech buildings in July 2017, has abandoned its plans to develop the 118-acre campus. In a June 6, 2018 article in The Montgomery Herald, the campus was described by KVC officials as a “fully-capable educational environment with subtle wraparound supports to create a safe, nurturing environment for young adults transitioning from the foster care system.”
“While KVC hoped to launch its pilot program on the former West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) campus in Montgomery, it has made the difficult decision to discontinue that effort,” a Friday press release stated. “Verbal support for the project is exceptionally high, however there is a need for greater public and private financial support to successfully launch the initiative. In good faith, KVC has maintained the property for more than a year, but capital improvements and repairs required on the campus have exacerbated the financial need for start-up.”
KVC Health Systems, headquartered in the Kansas City area, is a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dealing with all aspects of foster care in a number of locations in several states, including West Virginia.
The announcement of the KVC-WV takeover of the former WVU Tech campus after that institution’s move to Beckley came as a ray of light for community leaders in the Upper Kanawha Valley.
“What an exciting day to be in Montgomery. What an exciting day to be in the Upper Kanawha Valley,” Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram said at an announcement event in August 2017.
“It’s an honor to be here and share this moment with KVC Health Systems and all our community partners,” Ingram was quoted as saying in an Aug. 30, 2017 story in The Montgomery Herald.
“We’ve been through a lot here in Montgomery and the Upper Kanawha Valley,” Ingram continued. “We’ve weathered a lot of storms, but we are a resilient people. This is our home. We’re going to make it work.
“We will have a bright future. It will be different, but it will be bright and it will be better,” Ingram said in the Herald article.
Upon hearing of the KVC decision, he expressed his disappointment that the proposed project had failed.
“I was excited the program even exists. I was excited it was coming to Montgomery and I was excited we were going to be able to ‘foster’ those kids even after they got out of foster care,” Ingram told Chris Lawrence of MetroNews. “We were trying to do the right thing with kids.”
“The verbal commitments were abundant, but nobody really came through with funding,” Ingram explained. “It’s a sad day and a sad announcement. I do know KVC made every effort.”
Because of the failure of the KVC-WV plan, the buildings involved in the deal will remain the property of WVU, which is required to maintain day-to-day maintenance and to work to locate tenants for the campus.
Ingram told MetroNews other possibilities are being explored for the portion of the campus not taken over by BridgeValley Community & Technical College and the Upper Kanawha Valley YMCA, both groups which planned to partner with KVC-WV on the Riverbend project.
“I do know there are some other negotiations going on,” he said. “I think we will recover.”
KVC expressed its gratitude to local organizations which had planned to partner in the Riverbend project.
“KVC is grateful to its partners including WVU, BridgeValley Community & Technical College, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Alloy Federal Credit Union, the City of Montgomery, and the City of Smithers,” the press release stated. “These organizations have demonstrated compassion toward young people in foster care as well as a commitment to the economic development of the region.”
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