The Bridgeport News
By Jeff Toquinto, NEWS EDITOR
BRIDGEPORT - (Thursday, December 18, 2003)
Despite frigid conditions enhanced by a stiff wind, a ground breaking ceremony for the first bricks and mortar project at Charles Pointe went ahead as scheduled on Monday. After waiting for more than three years for the day to arrive and hurdling one obstacle after another, those involved weren’t going to let a little bit of cold weather stand in their way.
"I guess this is symbolic of overcoming things," said Jamie Corton, the managing partner of Genesis Partners, which is overseeing the entire development of Charles Pointe. "This says today that we’re going ahead. Being here today means we’re going to get started and get this done."
Going ahead on this particular project – an $8.7 million Wingate Inn Hotel – became feasible once $6.1 million in economic grant money from the state finally came through. Bridgeport was awarded the money from a special state economic development grant committee that was put together to spur development. The money awarded to Bridgeport from that committee, which is being used for infrastructure and a city-built conference center, was held up in legal battles for more than a year.
Bridgeport’s award for funds was one of 35 in 22 counties handed out by the committee. There was $240 million awarded, but legal challenges weren’t squashed until later this year. Once that was handled, the guarantee that the infrastructure would be put in place was secure and allowed developers to move ahead.
"Infrastructure isn’t much show and tell for the public," said Tom Bell, the hotel developer, who is with CHP Development Company, who told those gathered of its importance.
City Manager Kim Haws agreed.
"We’ve always known the utilities and the infrastructure were key to attracting this," said Haws.
With the utility questions answered, work is expected to begin next week on the actual hotel. When finished, the hotel will have a minimum of 120 rooms and have 25 full and part-time jobs. The hotel is expected to be complete in October 2004. The city-built conference center is expected to open at about the same time. Currently, design work is being done on that facility.
There is a chance the hotel will actually be larger than what is currently planned.
"This building can absolutely be expanded," said Matt Hostetler, director of franchise sales for Wingate Inns International, Inc. "With the support of the local community and the corporations that are going to be developing in this area, I believe it will be expanded."
The Wingate Inn, which caters to business travelers, has 150 hotels either open or under construction in the United States and Canada. The Bridgeport location will be the second in West Virginia.