By Jeff Toquinto, NEWS EDITOR
In his 30-plus years as a planner James F. “Jim” Haden has worked on planned communities in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, Las Vegas and South Dakota. In fact, Haden has been involved with more than 150 master plans covering more than 200,000 acres.
Despite that extensive body of work, there was one thing missing, Haden, who for the past 10 years has been the principal of the Charlotte-based firm HadenStanziale, has never done a major project in West Virginia.
While that might not seem like a problem to most national planning firms, it was a concern to Haden.
The reason for that situation is simple – West Virginia is his home.
Thanks to the master planned community of Charles Pointe in Bridgeport, Haden is just 30 minutes from Morgantown, where he was born and raised. Now Haden, a 1971 graduate of West Virginia University, is hoping to lend his expertise and knowledge to the 1,600-plus acre Charles Pointe development along Interstate 79.
“As far as a really significant project in West Virginia, this is a first,” said Haden, who owns a degree from WVU in landscape architecture. “It’s sort of a dream come true to come here with a lot of lessons learned over 30 years and put the experience to work.”
What Haden is helping to do at Charles Pointe in not new to large parts of the rest of the country. The master planned community, at least on a large scale, is new to West Virginia.
“I’m not aware of anything to the extent of what (Genesis Partners, the developers of Charles Pointe) are doing here as far as a mix of uses,” said Haden. “There are some planned communities in West Virginia, but they are more recreational based or recreation-retirement based. Charles Pointe is different in that there’s employment, retail, restaurants, a variety of living options with a variety of residential components and open space amenities.”
Still, the question that comes to mind is will a planned community work? Will it benefit the region, the developer and the land owner? And more importantly to those in the local area, will it benefit Bridgeport?
Haden said the answer is yes to all of those questions. The planned community of Charles Pointe, said Haden, will handle growth in an orderly manner. He said development at Charles Pointe won’t happen in a haphazard manner due to long-range planning.
“With Charles Pointe, there’s a commitment on the part of a land owner and developer to develop in a rational, orderly and meaningful way,” said Haden. “That way the community can absorb what’s happening and not be burdened by the development.”
Orderly growth is being done by planning. The planning is detailed to the point where Genesis Partners recently asked the city of Bridgeport to approve a Planned Unit Development for 1,360 acres of the 1,630 acre site. The PUD, which is an overlay zoning district that provides the developer with flexibility and the community with standards, shows what is planned for nearly every parcel on the 1,000-plus acres. Right now, acceptance of the PUD is on hold until annexation of the acreage takes place.
Planning of that magnitude has taken time. Because of that, only recently have projects begun in earnest, leading some skepticism about just what will happen.
Haden said he’s not surprised. He said he’s seen the skepticism before in places struggling for development and in areas where development is thriving.
“People have to realize this is a complicated undertaking with layers of design work that have to be taken into account,” said Haden, who said skepticism may also be related to the newness of the concept. “Plus development in West Virginia because of topographic issues. The topography here requires more thoughtful design.”
The design, it is hoped, will draw new business, new industry and new residents to the region. Haden said that will work because the planned community will offer a lifestyle attractive enough that other areas of the state will follow the lead of Charles Pointe.
“Right now, there’s a significant number of major developers giving serious consideration to this part of the world,” said Haden. “I don’t think this will be the only project like this in West Virginia in the next five years… Planned communities are migrating north.”
Within the next five years, Charles Pointe should be off and running if all goes as planned. New homes, new hotels, new business and a golf course or two should go from concept to reality.
“This will be something the community can be proud of,” said Haden. “It will be something that will be an economic success.”