The Bridgeport News
by Jeff Toquinto, News Editor
(Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2000) Page A1
For Bridgeport Mayor Joe Timms, the excitement was almost too much to contain.
Not only did last week’s announcement of the $750 million Charles Pointe development mean a potential economic boon for the city, it also was a chance to pay tribute to a long-time acquaintance, neighbor and Bridgeport benefactor, Charles "Jim" Compton.
"Mr. Compton was a prime mover in West Virginia," said Timms to a crowd of more than 100 on the Charles Pointe property last Wednesday, "but very quietly he was a major-benefactor for the City of Bridgeport."
"This is his day. He helped make Bridgeport what it is today."
And thanks to the 2000-acre Charles Pointe development, the very land Compton raised his family on could make Bridgeport what it is in the future.
Although Compton is in failing health and was unable to attend the Wednesday ceremony, his wife Julia was on hand at the announcement that will turn the family’s pristine farmland into a development asset for Bridgeport and West Virginia.
Looking to take advantage of the ‘new economy," which ties commerce and technology, Charles Pointe is expected to be home to high-technology businesses, private and government research institutions and up to as many as 250 houses. The self-contained community will be used to hopefully target and recruit high-tech workers looking to work in cutting edge jobs and take advantage of West Virginia’s amenities.
Although the 2000 acres are not in the city, the development group handling Charles Pointe has said it’s their hope to eventually have all of the acreage within the city.
One piece of the development puzzle that will be among the first parcels in the city is the convention center.
The convention center, which is not related to the Harrison County Commission’s recent studies to have a convention center, will be owned by the City of Bridgeport, Timms said.
It will be situated on donated land and is expected to cost up to $1.5 million.
Funds for the 10,000 square foot center will be provided by Bridgeport’s portion of the hotel-motel tax. Timms estimated that total to be $85,000 each year.
"Generally, convention centers aren’t money makers and they can lose money," said Timms. "But the development and the convention center profits Bridgeport because it will generate taxes on several fronts."
"Plus, it’s a modest convention center that has the ability to expand if we need it to."
Timms did say the city is working with the hotel developer to possibly "share some of the risk."
The hotel developer, Humphrey Hospitality Trust Inc., of Columbia, MD, is expected to build a hotel at about the same time. James Humphrey, the group’s chairman, said the group is negotiating for a Hilton or a Marriott to come to the site.
Combined with the convention center, the initial investment should be $9 million, officials said. Other early development could include a planned 18-hole public golf course, a town center and an amphitheater.
Another cost the city will likely absorb will be utilities. However, the city already has utilities in place to the boundaries of Charles Pointe.
"It’s a hop, skip and a jump to bring the utilities in," said Timms. "Still, we’re looking at development funds in from the state or federal level to help with costs and we’ve already applied for one grant through Congressman (Alan, D-W.Va.) Mollohan’s office."
Jamie Corton, who along with his wife Jennifer, lead the development group Genesis Partners that will coordinate investment on the site, said utility availability helped make this go.
"The whole project is surrounded by water and sewage and that’s a plus," said Corton. "It’s right there."
Joining the utilities in close proximity to Charles Pointe is another planned community that was announced May 10, 1995. That development, known as White Oaks, is as vacant as the day it was announced five years ago.
Timms and Corton, however, believe there are some differences between that announcement and the project officially announced last week.
"They’ve brought in a quality team to develop this," said Timms. "From the engineering all the way through the marketing, this has been researched and planned for a number of years."
"The one thing that may be overlooked when comparing this with White Oaks is that White Oaks is still alive." Timms continued. ‘There’s still a lot being talked about for that site and White Oaks and Charles Pointe should actually compliment one another."
Corton said his management team looked at what materialized at White Oaks and learned from what transpired at that site.
Along with a convention center and the high possibility of a hotel the Charles Pointe team also has the advantage of a partnership with West Virginia University. WVU President David Hardesty said the school will cooperate in promoting private sector growth in high-technology industries.
Although not in attendance, the group has the backing of West Virginia’s congressional and state delegation. U. S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D.W.Va., Congressman Bob Wise, Gov. Cecil H. Underwood and others have signed on in support, officials said.