Partners Match Talents In Charles Pointe Project

The State Journal

By Pam Kasey

BRIDGEPORT - (October 10, 2003, page 25)

Genesis Partners has put together a team of in-state and out-of-state partners for Charles Pointe, the proposed 2,000-acre mixed-use development along I-79 in Harrison County.

Genesis grew roundabout out of the ventures of the late Charles E. "Jim" Compton. Compton was best known for founding Grafton Coal, among other businesses, and for endowing the Compton Chair of Nutrition Research at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

But in another, lesser-known venture, Compton kept 200 head of buffalo for meat on the family farm north of Bridgeport.

That pasture has become particularly valuable. Its several square miles of rolling basin and surrounding ridges offer views for residential and recreational uses with convenient commercial access to the high-tech corridor.

Genesis Partners, established by Compton’s daughter Jennifer Compton Corton and her husband, James Corton, aims to make good use of it.

Mixed-use developments in urban locations may house more people than Charles Pointe and cost more money, but even the biggest have a smaller footprint. The planned $10 billion Newport development on the Hudson River in Jersey City, N.J., for example, touts commercial space, 9,000 housing units and a marina, all on just 400 acres.

At 2,000 acres and a projected cost of at least $750 million, Charles Pointe, also combining commercial and recreational aspects with a planned 1,400 housing units, is big.

The size and scope of the project calls for partners, and Genesis has chosen its partners carefully, relying where possible on the family businesses’ past relationships.

Local corporate partners for the project are accountants Toothman Rice, continuing a relationship than began with Grafton Coal more than 40 years ago, and Waters, Warner & Harris of Clarksburg, another long-standing relationship.

When it comes to brokerage services, Corton said, Genesis Partners wanted brokers that could draw businesses and capital from global markets. They were able to rely on past partnerships for that as well.

Commercial real estate brokerage C. B. Richard Ellis has worked with the family for more than 10 years.

"They’re very excited about this project," said Corton. With 250 offices worldwide, CBRE bills itself as the world’s leading commercial real estate services firm.

Genesis will work with CBRE’s subsidiary L. J. Melody & Co. for financial brokerage services.

According to Melody promotional materials, the company negotiates

$3 billion annually in transactions involving millions of square feet of office space.

But Genesis Partners has no past relationships with land planners, a function it considered crucial.

"You want to make sure that what gets to paper to be built is exactly what’s in the vision," Corton said. "And the work has to be quality."

After numerous trips to planned developments in the Washington, D.C., area and beyond, Corton said he and Stuart took the staff in two carloads on a weekend-long scouting trip to planned development sites around Washington, D.C. They visited Columbia, Md., and Reston Town Center and Lansdowne on the Potomac in Virginia, among others. They compared impressions.

"This works…now, this doesn’t work. This looks nice but I don’t know how it got an award," Corton said, summarizing staff conversations.

They didn’t like the fake look of town centers in some planned developments or the high density of others.

"But then we’d look at some things and say, ‘Boy, who was the architect on that?’" Corton said.

Finally the partners chose Bowman Consulting of Leesburg, Va., near Washington, D.C.

"Our companies are always looking to establish long-term relationships, and there are a lot of things you look for," Stuart said. "Bowman’s attention to detail is one thing that really impressed us."

Phase I of Charles Pointe lies north of state Route 279 at exit 124 on I-79. Corton expects that section, dubbed North Landbay, to be under construction as early as late fall, with some occupancy beginning in 2004. North Landbay is expected to take five to six years to complete.

The entire Charles Pointe development, according to Corton, is a 15-20-year project.