How five real estate leaders shaped Utah and the West: changing the face of Utah
It’s an interesting exercise to consider what Utah might look like today had Ambassador John Price, O. Randall Woodbury, Kem C. Gardner, Ellis Ivory and H. Roger Boyer not put their unique stamp on the state.
This distinguished group of leaders has been responsible for many of Utah’s most iconic real estate developments. In fact, without them, many of Utah’s malls wouldn’t exist, including the Gateway Center — Utah’s first outdoor mall — and many families wouldn’t be living in Ivory Homes. Missing would be several of the major corporation headquarters now lining Lehi’s “Silicon Slopes,” a number of shopping malls throughout the Western states and more than 100 million square feet of retail, industrial, hotel, residential and office buildings across multiple states.
Each one of these five entrepreneurs and the companies they and their families founded have made significant contributions to Utah and the West. NAIOP Utah, a commercial real estate development trade association, recently brought them together to discuss a variety of issues on the theme “Building a Future … Shaped by the Past.” The advice shared here came from that discussion led by Zions Bancorporation Chief Credit Officer Michael Morris. The full transcript of the conversation can be found in the article entitled “Utah Real Estate Shaped by the Past,” published in the 2016 Symposium Magazine.
Ambassador John Price, JP Realty Inc.
John Price was born Hans Joachim Praiss in Spandau, Germany, but his family fled the Nazis when he was 5, ultimately settling in New York City in 1940. Price’s first visit to Utah came in 1954 as a geology student. Deciding he wanted to stay, he attended and graduated from the University of Utah, then started his first business, J. Price Construction Company, at a time when Utah was still considered a pretty sleepy state. Later, he started JP Realty Inc.
Over the next six decades, and particularly between 1970 and 1990, John Price was one of the largest contractors and real estate developers in the state. His company’s projects changed the face of shopping in Utah by pioneering the development of multiple shopping malls including Cottonwood Mall in 1962, the first indoor mall in the state and only the second in America; Cache Valley Mall in Logan in 1976; St. George’s Red Cliffs Mall, the only major indoor shopping center between Las Vegas, Nevada and the Wasatch Front; and Provo Towne Center in 1998. JP Realty was also responsible for developing the Time Square office park at 300 West and the intersection of I-15 and I-80, which was one of the first in Salt Lake City.
On staying focused: “I never stayed in one business. I am amazed I survived because I wasn’t focused (at the beginning of my career.) In the end I went through seven recessions, but each time I micromanaged back to my original business, which was construction and development. I had to focus. That’s one of the lessons I really learned — that you can’t be everything to everyone. Just learn something and stick to it. Don’t always look for the greener grass. Just focus and become good at what you do.”
O. Randall Woodbury, Woodbury Corp.
Since the early 1970s, University Mall has been Orem’s landmark shopping center. Woodbury Corporation developed and has maintained management of the mall ever since. Now led by the third generation of Woodburys, with O. Randall Woodbury as president, the company is investing more than $500 million to redevelop the mall into a multiuse development now called University Place.
University Place is 112 acres and offers office buildings, housing, shopping and dining, as well as a 2-acre outdoor green space called The Orchard that will be completed at the end of this summer. The Orchard will include an indoor and outdoor children’s play area, outdoor stage, choreographed fountains and plenty of open, green grass where events will be held year-round.
Woodbury Corporation was founded in 1919 by F. Orin Woodbury, Randall’s grandfather. His goal was to build a company by developing and managing a portfolio of well-located real estate equities. Now, almost 100 years later, the Woodbury Corporation is run by third-generation Woodbury family members, with several fourth-generation family members in leadership positions. They follow the same principles of hard work, honesty and integrity of their grandfather, with a commitment to improving the communities in which they do business. Woodbury Corporation owns and manages more than 12 million square feet of retail, industrial, hotel, residential and office buildings, across 12 states. Besides University Place, other properties include The Meadows in American Fork, Canyon Creek in Spanish Fork, eight office buildings in the University of Utah Research Park and Wilmington Flats in Sugar House.
On keeping the Woodbury Corporation family owned and operated: “The real driving issue was not wanting Wall Street or someone else controlling your every move. In the end, we made the decision to provide the opportunity for careers for our children. I love the fact that I get to see my kids at work every day. We share in the pains and struggles and successes.”
H. Roger Boyer, The Boyer Company
Before Roger Boyer got a hold of it, Salt Lake City’s west side was languishing and largely unnoticed by developers. When Boyer (and long-time partner Kem Gardner) had the novel idea to throw Utah’s first outdoor mall into the mix, it literally changed the face of the west side forever. Projects like that have led the Boyer Company, founded by H. Roger Boyer in 1972, in becoming one of the largest developers of commercial real estate in Utah, recognized primarily for its notable office projects.
The company’s One Utah Center office tower (also known locally as the “copper top” building) was built in 1991 and has long been one of the premier downtown office buildings in Salt Lake City. Boyer’s more recent development of downtown’s 101 and 102 Towers and Draper’s Vista Station (the latter co-developed with the Gardner Company) have attracted internationally known businesses like eBay by offering top-notch office space and convenient access to mass transit, such as the UTA FrontRunner.
On whether or not real estate development corporations should go public: “One of the negatives of going public is that you become beholding to a public market of expectation. People want performance delivery; they want steady growth; they want predictability; they want expectations that maybe are not the best long-run investment decision, but you are pushed to do it because the public market demands it. So I think for most real estate development, the public market is a tough task master.”
Kem C. Gardner, Gardner Company
Without Kem Gardner, major corporations may not have flocked to Utah’s growing technology corridor. The Gardner Company developed several of the first and best-known corporate offices that dot the now nationally famous area including Adobe, Vivint and Overstock.com. During his 38 years in business, much spent in partnership with Roger Boyer, Gardner was involved in the development of millions of square feet of corporate offices, retail shopping centers, hotels and industrial/manufacturing facilities across the state.
His company’s latest project — The View 72 Corporate Center in Midvale — is conveniently located next to a TRAX stop and will consolidate Overstock.com’s offices into one location, in addition to offering retail, restaurants and a hotel.
On One Utah Center in Salt Lake City, which Gardner co-developed with The Boyer Company: “One Utah Center taught me that you could have an impact in a community in taking care of some blighted areas; by improving a block. ... I learned that you could be a builder that really has an impact.”
Ellis Ivory, Founder, Ivory Homes
Ellis Ivory could easily be called the residential real estate guru in Utah, as the company he founded in 1971 is responsible for the development of new homes and communities across the state. Ivory’s company has built homes in hundreds of locations along the Wasatch Front and St. George, including in the hugely popular Daybreak community in South Jordan. The company’s name is ubiquitous in the state and its homes have become the places where Utahns in all stages of life raise their children, enjoy retirement and make memories.
At the beginning of his career, Ivory began to develop farmland just south of St. George — then largely undeveloped for residential living — and together with Roger Boyer, turned the farmland into a thriving recreation and retirement community called Bloomington. A few years later in 1988, he registered the Ivory trademark, “Utah’s Number One Homebuilder,” and began developing and building residential real estate himself. Since then, Ivory Homes has been Utah’s No. 1 homebuilder for 28 consecutive years.
On staying focused: “Back in the 1980s we said, ‘We are going to be the finest home builder in Utah’ and we wanted to lead the market for 50 years. We have now led it for 28 years; this is the 29th. No builder in the country has ever done that. I think one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is getting too spread.”