Bridgeport’s Big Plan Suddenly, Charles Pointe Complex Taking Shape

December 03, 2006

By Sarah K. Winn, Staff Writer 

BRIDGEPORT — After years of delays, the mammoth planned community called Charles Pointe is moving forward. 

“It’s like making a cake. It looks kind of messy at first, but when you eat it, it tastes pretty good,” said Jamie Corton, managing partner of Genesis Partners, the developer of the property. 

“People are starting to see it and believe it.” 

As a whole, Charles Pointe, a sprawling 2,000 acres along Interstate 79 in Harrison County, is hard to imagine. When complete, the community will include more than 2,000 houses and apartments, two million square feet of retail space, a golf course, a town center and walking trails. 

It will be like a town within a town, Corton said. 

When first announced in 2000, the estimated cost was $750 million. Now, with the ever-evolving plans, the cost has jumped to an estimated $1.2 billion, Corton said.

Initially, Corton said there would be homes built by 2001. The three-year search for the perfect homebuilder slowed things down, he said. 

Getting the money for infrastructure such as water, sewer and streets also caused a snag.

However, late last year, a nearly $97 million tax-increment-financing plan was approved, which Genesis will use to create the basic infrastructure. 

Already, $5.4 million has been used for engineering purposes, Corton said. 

Corton said he expects to spend another $30 million in the first quarter of 2007. He has 30 years to spend the rest, he said. 

In June, the city of Bridgeport annexed the 1,000 acres of property, increasing the town’s area by one-third, and took over water and sewer upkeep, Corton said.

2006 has been a year of visible progress, Corton said. The north part of the property has added the Bridgeport Conference Center, the Wingate Inn, a doctor’s office and, most recently, the Microtel Inn and Suites. 

Construction is almost complete on the Fairmont Federal Credit Union, along with the headquarters for Petroleum Development Corp, a Bridgeport oil and gas company. 

Petroleum Development already has plans for expansion, Corton said. A child-care center is also being built. 

On the housing front, 60 townhouses, starting at $150,000 each, are done and 12 $300,000 duplexes are built and occupied. Orders for more duplexes are coming in, Corton said. 

Corton is meticulous, checking the project’s progress daily. He is having recently installed lampposts removed because they don’t look right — there is a small crease about halfway up each pole.

Funding for the project comes from a variety of sources, Corton said, and it helped that half the property was owned by the late coal operator C.E. “Jim” Compton, Corton’s father-in-law. The property used to be a buffalo farm and still has cattle roaming. Corton’s brother-in-law still lives there. 

Also, the city of Bridgeport got a $6 million state economic development grant to build the conference center. The homebuilders, S&A Homes of State College, Pa., have added about $70 million in construction money. Other building funding comes from the retailers locating there, he said.

While Corton envisioned the project taking about 20 years, 2006’s progress has shaved off five years, he said.

With 2007 quickly approaching, Corton is switching gears, concentrating on a substantially underdeveloped south portion, located across W.Va. 279. In 2007, ground will be broken on the planned golf course, designed by Steve Burns. 

“You can see a golf course down there, right?” Corton said, while pointing to a still-green valley dotted with deer. “This is where we are going next year.” 

Also, back on the north section, construction on an 187,000-square-foot lifestyle center will begin in the spring, he said.

The lifestyle center will have office space, retail shops and possible residential space, he said. It will resemble a downtown minishopping area, he said. 

So, is such a project really viable in Bridgeport?

Corton thinks so, especially considering the nearby Federal Bureau of Investigation’s fingerprinting center, the Harrison-Marion Regional Airport and the new United Hospital Center just over the ridge.

Other high technology companies in the area will provide the perfect residents, he said.

But the Charles Pointe experience doesn’t stop at the gates. Community members also will have access to a Bridgeport shooting club called Tailfeathers, 700 acres on Tiger Lake and 300 acres in Tucker County.

This is all part of Charles Pointe’s “a place to live, work and play” marketing slogan, Corton said. 

“It’s not just selling a lot,” he said. 

“That sense of home is important.”