Thursday, January 12, 2006
By Jeff Toquinto – NEWS EDITOR
There’s a hotel already open. Another is under construction, and a new Bridgeport Conference and Convention Center is just weeks away from being finished.
But, there’s more in the works – much more. In fact, the year 2006 may prove to be the visible beginnings of keeping a promise to Bridgeport and North Central West Virginia by developers of a planned community along Interstate 79.
The community in question is Charles Pointe. The developers of the community are Genesis Partners, and they believe work will continue through more of the hundreds of available acres as promised several years ago.
"During 2006, we will be working hard to increase the build out of the north section of the development and to begin initial work on the south side of the project," said Genesis Partners Managing Partner Jamie Corton.
The main part of the project is the "north section," which includes the North Land Bay area. Already, a Wingate Inn is up and running and a $3.2 million Microtel Inn is being built. Add to that the Convention Center that sits adjacent to the Wingate Inn and the start of the $3.75 million corporate office of Petroleum Development Corporation, plans for a new Fairmont Federal Credit Union building and one can see that the genesis for Genesis Partners’ development has arrived.
"Prior to last year, the work primarily at Charles Pointe we were involved with was dealing with planners and engineers as it related to infrastructure," said Bridgeport Community Development Director Randy Spellman. "When 2005 rolled around, you started to see things break loose with above-ground projects – real construction projects. You’ve got things already finished and three or four big projects already under way or in the planning stages. A lot happened this year."
Besides the domino effect that often takes place in developments of this nature when the first several projects begin, Charles Pointe – as well as other developable areas in the region – should actually receive a boost from United Hospital Center’s new $100 million-plus facility it will build on land opposite Charles Pointe. In fact, Genesis Partners has already begun advertising to draw in physicians and health-care professionals.
"Physicians and health-care providers have shown an interest in locating at Charles Pointe over the years. In fact, many professionals and business owners are talking to us at this time," said Corton.
To aid with the potential arrival of those businesses, Corton said Genesis Partners is working on "a variety of office sites" that should have some construction beginning this year. To that end, businesses are negotiating, he said, on leasing, owning and investing in the area.
Interest from the public is also at a higher level than in the past. During a ‘gate-opening’ ceremony when the public was invited to tour the site, hundreds of individuals appeared to see what the development had to offer. Still, Corton and others know the public gets more excited to learn about new restaurants and retail outlets than just about anything. Those things, said Corton, also may come this year.
"We are talking with various businesses, which include new eating establishments and retail, about joining us at Charles Pointe, said Corton.
While the public excitement will likely come from future announcements of restaurants and retail establishments, the key that could hold everything together at Charles Pointe is the residential aspect of the development. S&A Homes is the exclusive home builders at the development and S&A Divisional Sales and Administration Manager Bill Coy said interest in homes at the site is solid.
"We have a list of 400 names of people interested in buying," said Coy. "We’re surprised with all the interest, but we knew coming in that volume of this type could happen because we believe the market is ready for this type of volume"
Corton is also surprised by the inquiries regarding homes.
"The interest in owning a home at Charles Pointe has been beyond expectations," said Corton. "The interest in single family homes has been especially active."
The reason for the surprise from Corton may be due to the fact that not a single-family unit has been built. However, that should change.
Coy said ground may be broken on the initial stage known as Worthington Village this year. He said there are 150 lots available for construction.
As for existing volume, six duplex units are already complete. Three of the units have been sold, said Coy, but no one has moved in yet. The cost for the units begins at $269,000 and go up, depending upon what is added.
Town homes are also planned. Coy said there are 48 home units planned, with 24 already under construction. None of these $150,000 to $200,000 units has been sold, but they won’t even be marketed until next month at the earliest.
The city of Bridgeport has played a role with Charles Pointe, particularly assisting with infrastructure development in and around the development site. The role is being played because the possible development will help stabilize the city’s tax base.
Because of its role, it’s been gratifying for city officials to see the recent surge in development. Even more satisfying is the fact that they’re hearing about interest in Charles Point from folks other than those with Genesis Partners. Spellman said calls come in more often from people wanting information than one would think.
"We’re seeing a lot of calls from design firms or engineers wanting to know about city standards and codes relating to (Charles Pointe) – maybe three or four a week, and that’s really a lot," said Spellman.
The only bad thing, from a public knowledge standpoint, is that the firms don’t say who they are representing.
"At that point, you just don’t know who is interested," said Spellman. "They don’t have to tell you, and they generally don’t tell us the name of their clients."
Interest, oddly enough, has also come from other municipalities. Spellman said other cities in West Virginia have called to see how Bridgeport has handled such a massive development effort.
"What they’re doing is what most cities do," said Spellman. "They don’t want to reinvent the wheel so they see how something like this is handled. It’s good for us to get the calls because it allows the city to network and be able to get back with them if we need help on handling a unique situation."