By Shawn Gainer, Staff Writer
BRIDGEPORT, (Thursday, October 26, 2000)
The formal announcement of plans for the Charles Pointe development near Bridgeport was greeted with enthusiasm by local officials and business people who expect it to be part of an economic transformation of the region.
Named for Charles E. "Jim" Compton, the $750-million planned development is expected to include more than 250 "smart homes" built for access to telecommunications infrastructure, a conference center and hotels, an area for corporate research and development, retail shopping and recreation areas, as well as an 18-hole championship golf course.
Jay Reddy, president of Pro Logic, a firm located at the West Virginia High Technology Consortium campus in Fairmont, said such a self-contained community could draw the kind of technology- savvy, mobile workers he needs at his company. Pro Logic currently has contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.
"This is exactly the kind of thing we need to attract top talent. They’re addressing quality of life," Reddy said.
Reddy has stated he believes West Virginia is well positioned to compete for technology leaders and workers because of the state’s low crime rate, reasonable cost of living and strong communities.
While the concept of a master-planned, self-contained community has no precedent in West Virginia, Harrison County Commissioner Beth Taylor said that in other areas, it is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to living in metropolitan suburbs.
"It’s a lifestyle that’s centered around an all-inclusive community as opposed to the suburbs of the city," Taylor said. "I think Americans have a hunger to move back to a community environment that is lacking in the typical suburb."
"Suburbs foster dependence on automobiles, long commutes and congested highways," she continued. "What’s it giving you but a roof over your head?"
Another facet of Charles Pointe is an agreement between West Virginia University and Genesis Partners, the Bridgeport firm formed to coordinate investments in the development. This agreement calls for cooperation in the development of private sector applications of government and university research in areas such as biometrics, forensics and health sciences.
WVU President David Hardesty said Wednesday Charles Pointe would benefit both the university and the region.
"This is more than a housing development It’s a whole new economic and lifestyle concept, and it could expand Bridgeport to be a very significant community," Hardesty said.
Hardesty added that under the agreement, WVU would give support similar to what it now lends to the High Technology Consortium in Fairmont and Mylan Pharmaceuticals in Morgantown.
"We’ll be able to attract companies and agencies that want to be near a major research university," he said. "We can work with the people and businesses, and they would hire some of our professors and graduates. If people come in and there’s an expansion of schools, they could hire some of our teacher graduates."
All 2,000 acres of the development area will be brought under the jurisdiction of Bridgeport in phases. Bridgeport Councilman Mike Conley said that while the city will be making a significant investment in infrastructure, including streets and sidewalks, he expects the entire region will benefit..
"We evaluated it for risk and assessed that risk to be minimal," Conley said. "The developer has good financial backing and has done careful market research."
Conley added he expects tax revenue from construction will offset infrastructure cost sand keep the development from being a financial burden on the city.
‘"This will be a magnet for everything else – retail sales, engineering services and food services. This is just the start of it," he said. "I don’t even know how to put a number on the jobs it will create."