by Shawn Gainer, STAFF WRITER
BRIDGEPORT, (Wednesday, October 25, 2000)
New development will include city-owned conference center, a major hotel and more than 250 ‘smart’ homes
Developers hope $750M investment will be catalyst for state’s ‘new economy’
Local developers and officials formally announced plans this morning for a unique, master-planned community with an estimated price tag of $750 million, to be located along interstate 79 and state Route 279.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegram, James A. Corton, president of Genesis Partners, and Lane Bailey of the public relations firm Golin/Harris, said the ambitious project is designed to be a working model of what residential and economic life in West Virginia could become.
"We’ve been looking at this for approximately seven years, with two years of detailed planning," said Corton, a resident of Bridgeport who formed Genesis Partners with his wife Jennifer to coordinate investments in the development. "We’ve not only worked with local people but state and federal people, and we feel the time is right."
Corton said he expects most of the work on the project to be completed within 7-10 years, though he added the timetable for the master plan is 15 to 20 years.
While all of the site is expected to be brought within Bridgeport’s jurisdiction, plans call for an upscale community to be practically self-contained, with its own retail shopping and entertainment facilities, a conference center and hotel, an 18-hole championship golf course and an equestrian area. Also, the development will include more than
250 "smart homes" – residences with access to telecommunications infrastructure such as fiber optic cable.
Corton also indicated that Charles Pointe was submitted as a possible site for the relocation of United Hospital Center.
"UHC is aware of Charles Pointe," Bailey said.
The combination of facilities, access to highways and Benedum Airport, natural beauty and low crime rate could make the development a magnet for highly mobile technology workers, Corton said, citing studies by Dr. Richard Florida, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University.
"This is very much private sector driven," Corton said. "Research has shown Bridgeport has a lot of amenities for technology workers. There’s also the amenity of the great West Virginia work force. That’s been demonstrated at the FBI center."
The development is intended to transform the area economy as well as lifestyles. Corton has signed an agreement with WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. to cooperate in promoting private sector growth in technologies such as biometrics, forensics and health sciences.
"The link with WVU is so we can create a model of creating and capturing intellectual property, and keep it in West Virginia," Bailey said. "Some of the models in the project are intended to do that."
For example, Bailey said a tract of the development designated as a "federal campus" is intended to be a place where government and university research in forensics and biometrics could be adapted for private sector use. Bailey added the complex in designed to attract innovative individuals who spur economic growth and keep capable residents from leaving the state.
"The fact is in West Virginia we don’t have a place like Charles Pointe to attract corporate leaders," he said. "Virginia does, Pennsylvania does and Kentucky does."
Corton named several other partners in the project, including Humphrey Hospitality Trust Inc., of Columbia, Md., which will be involved in hotel construction and construction of the conference center; Baker Engineering of Pittsburgh and Baker Associates of Alexandria, Va., for engineering and design work; and Weber McGinn of Washington, D.C., for marketing and strategic planning.
Charles Pointe is named for Charles E. "Jim" Compton, father of Jennifer Compton Corton, and a prominent Bridgeport resident who invented the coal auger and established the School of Nutrition at WVU.
"It’s 2,000 of the most beautiful acres in the county," Corton said.
"It’s a special place for all of us. We wanted to preserve its beauty, yet share in with others."