The city of Charleston, W.Va., is embarking on a new beginning as it molds a revolutionary program for young professionals: Early Dynamic Guided Engagement (EDGE). The three-year program offers recent college graduates the opportunity to live in the heart of downtown Charleston for a subsidized cost while they participate in charitable activities, meet current leaders and community dynamos, and learn about our city’s assets, conditions, and challenges. Further, local businesses and EDGE sponsors can use the program as a recruiting tool to attract smart, new professionals to our city.
The preferred site for the EDGE Urban Residential Complex is the former Holley Hotel lot in the center of the city. The site lies just a few blocks from the best venues downtown has to offer, including charming restaurants, unique shopping, and special event hotspots. In positioning the residential complex among locally owned businesses, the EDGE program introduces participants to downtown living and encourages them to familiarize their favorite haunts long after the program’s completion. The proposed building complex will have approximately 60 modern apartment units with the capacity for current technology and green living. The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority owns the property and solidly supports the EDGE project, especially because the hotel was razed more than 20 years ago and has remained undeveloped and un-utilized ever since—until now.
The EDGE program breaks down into three years, or three classes. In the first year, participants will be introduced to our community’s leaders, institutions, and conditions. They will attend already existing programs such as Leadership Kanawha Valley, the Citizen’s Police Academy, and Generation Charleston. In their second year, participants will identify a community need and formulate a solution. Working with The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the foundation’s “New Charleston” Initiative, and other area nonprofit organizations, participants will organize as a class to share insights and develop strategies for making significant social, economic, and civic impacts in our community.
Using what they have learned during years one and two, participants will secure resources and implement plans in their third year. And under The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation’s tutelage, participants will attend grant writing workshops, experience nonprofit board leadership training, and receive community initiative guidance. These efforts will not only result in helping to solve the participants’ selected community problem, but will also provide the competencies, credibility, and confidence to remain involved as effective leaders of our community long after the EDGE commitment is concluded.
Charleston EDGE is designed to ground young professionals in our community as engaged citizens and leaders. Participants who successfully complete the three-year guided program will qualify for a $15,000 down payment on a house or residential unit within Charleston’s city limits. People who own homes are invested and more likely to care about making Charleston a better place to live and work. In rooting their success, the EDGE program encourages participants to continue transforming Charleston through their newly cultivated engagement skills and connections. Ultimately, EDGE will be an impact incubator that simultaneously cultivates new leadership, reinvigorates our urban center, and provides local businesses a competitive advantage in recruitment and retention.
Stephanie Hyre is the marketing director for The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation