Charles Pointe Moves Forward with Bold Plan

55 Good Things About West Virginia

The State Journal

By: Pam Kasey

May 26, 2006

BRIDGEPORT – Charles Pointe, the $1.3 billion, 1,700-acre mixed-use development along Interstate 79 at Bridgeport, is on track to become the largest and most ambitious planned community in West Virginia.

The emphasis here is on "planned." The community’s single and multi-family residences, retail outlets and restaurants, office complexes, conference center, hotels, schools and recreational and cultural facilities require the cooperation of many public and private entities.

All of it is coordinated by Bridgeport developers Genesis Partners.

Genesis grew 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 a 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 I-79 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.

With housing alone planned for 2, 300 units, Charles Pointe’s size and scope call for partners, and Genesis has chosen its partners carefully, relying where possible on past relationships.

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

When it comes to brokerage services, James Corton said Genesis Partners wanted brokers that could draw businesses and capital from global markets.

Prominent among the firms chosen is commercial real estate brokerage C. B. Richard Ellis, which has worked with the family for more than a decade.

"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.

But Genesis had no past relationships with land planners, a function Genesis 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 a long search, Genesis 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," said Genesis Development Director Rob Stuart. "Bowman’s attention to detail is one thing that really impressed us."

To construct the development’s many and varied homes, S & A Homes of State College, Pa., has established an office in Bridgeport to support its work.

And every part of the community will be connected through a state-of-the-art fiber optic network planned by The Broadband Group of Sacramento, Calif., and laid by Communications Plus of Westover.

Beyond corporate partnerships, Corton and Stuart emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships behind Charles Pointe, including their relationships with the city of Bridgeport, Harrison County and the state Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways.

The creation of a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district in December 2005 through an agreement between the city, county and state allowed for the sale of bonds to support critical infrastructure like roads and utilities.

Phase I of the community, Charles Pointe North lies north of State Route 279 at exit 124 off I-79. The first construction began in that section in 2003 and has resulted so far in a Wingate Inn and the Bridgeport Conference Center.

Under construction now at Charles Pointe North are a facility for Fairmont Federal Credit Union, a corporate office building for Petroleum Development Corp and a Microtel Inn and Suites, expected to open late this summer.

The first homes 108 in the community will open for occupancy in Charles Pointe North this year as well.

Construction also has begun in Charles Pointe South. In this larger section, nine- and 18-hole golf courses in the central basin will serve as a scenic backdrop to homes and other structures on the surrounding ridges.

Noted designer and nationally certified landscape architect Steve Burns was commissioned to design the courses. He designed Hawks Nest Golf Club in Wooster, Ohio, and Cobblestone Golf Course in Kendallville, Ind. Both received 4.5 out of 5 stars in the 2002-2003 edition of Golf Digest’s Places to Play.

Utilities will be buried before construction moves forward in Charles Pointe South. Construction is expected to begin on the golf courses and the first homes in 2006, according to Charles Pointe spokesman Bill Phillips Jr. of The Phillips Group.

Gov. Joe Manchin acknowledged Charles Pointe’s contribution to employment in the state at a ceremonial opening in August 2005, noting the 17,000 construction jobs and 11,000 permanent jobs projected in an independent study.

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

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